The New Apologetic

Reading and studying other writers and thinkers have been immensely helpful in shaping my view of cultural engagement and practical ministry. One of the most helpful thinkers I have followed is Derek Rishmawy. Yesterday he shared an excerpt from his essay in the new work Our Secular Age.

His essay focuses on applying Charles Taylor’s insights to ministry to Millennials growing up in the Super-Nova of belief and the internet age, (and really anybody inhabiting our cross-pressured age). Here are both the excerpt and his full post:

We’ve reached the point where everybody has to preach apologetically, even if your congregation isn’t mostly millennial. To be clear, I don’t think such preaching is simply a matter of incorporating in every sermon arguments for the resurrection, or the existence of God, and so forth (though some of that might help). Instead, we need to actively answer objections to the gospel from inside the mindset of our cross-pressured culture on a regular basis as a part of ourscriptural exposition.

We need to show the consistency, coherence, and comeliness of the gospel to this generation. But it is not enough to simply defend the gospel. Present the way it interrogates the dominant, unquestioned narratives of our hearers—on meaning, money, sex, power, politics, gender, and so forth—and actually makes better sense of the world than any other view on offer.

This precise line of thinking contributed my recent post on the Bible. The necessity of engaging people in the internet age apologetically is why works Unparalleled by Jared C. Wilson and The Problem of God by Mark Clark shot up my reading list.

I am also convinced that everybody does not only have to preach apologetically, but churches must disciple others with the apologetic necessity in mind. I am sorry (not really) but “because the Bible says so” is no longer a persuasive statement.

What might a few disciple-making essentials need to be, which will help establish a consistency, coherence, and comeliness of the gospel in the life of a believer?

 

I could probably suggest several essentials. Developmentally in the life of a believer, I think there are five core markers which are built on. However, primary to the other four is the understanding of one’s identity in Christ.

Did you know there are 33 Things that happen at the moment of salvation? That’s right. There are thirty-three instantaneous and simultaneously given riches of God’s grace poured out on the believer.

That’s right. There are thirty-three instantaneous and simultaneously given riches of God’s grace poured out on the believer.

There are thirty-three instantaneous and simultaneously given riches of God’s grace poured out on the believer.

When we rightfully understand who God is and how he acts, we grasp the power of our new identity. Because God sent Jesus to live a perfect life, die on the cross, and then be resurrected, we now have the ability to know God personally. When God saves us and we believe, we experience the thirty-three things.

God is, so God does; therefore, we are, so we do (living apologetically).Unknown-2

How would your life change? What apologetic would be projected into the world if you lived in light of your identity in Christ? Here are fifteen. Why not begin a search for the rest?

  1. Forgiven
  2. Child of God
  3. Having access to God
  4. reconciled
  5. justified
  6. Placed “in Christ”
  7. Acceptable to God
  8. Heavenly citizenship
  9. A part in the eternal plan of God
  10. Free from the law
  11. Adopted into the family of God
  12. Delivered from the power of darkness
  13. A chosen generation
  14. United to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  15. Possessing every spiritual blessing

Growing Up In The Fatih

Saul’s conversion in Scripture is one of the most fascinating accounts to read. Early Christians were skeptical about the man who became known as Paul. In honesty, the early Christians had every right to be skeptical because Paul had killed Christians. Paul’s initial growth in the faith was rapid because of his foundation in Judaism. However, Paul still had to undergo a certain change so that his upbringing would not choke out the change the Gospel had caused.

Upon Paul being converted on the Damascus road, Paul now had to begin the journey of actively following Jesus and growing to be like Jesus. Paul was not alone in this journey. As driven as Paul was, he was not alone. Acts 9:17-30 chronicles the follow-up which occurred for the apostle by Ananias and others. Paul describes his own experience in Galatians 1:13-2:6, in which he references visiting the leaders in Jerusalem. The two passages carry similarities but also include some differences necessary for the context of writing. Rather than focus on these differences, the goal of this post will be to describe essentials for following-up with a new believer based on the spiritual journey of the apostle Paul.

Because I have two young children, I liken Paul’s initial spiritual development to a child’s development.  Every young child needs to learn their identity, how to walk, talk, feed, and clean themselves. Just as children have parents, new believers have spiritual parents to aid in their spiritual development. To see new believers achieve the developmental markers, mature believers must support, teach, and encourage the young believers. These five key developmental markers are essential for conducting follow-up of a new believer. When coupled with passages such as Mark 4:1-20 and Isaiah 6:8-10, the developmental markers provide a foundation and initial fruit for potential reproduction. The ability to make disciples and be Christ’s witness is the responsibility of every believer, not just a select few pastors. Every believer has the potential for reproduction, just as every child does as they mature. Therefore, the key developmental essentials provide healthy benchmarks by which the community of faith know the believer is ready to reproduce.

IMG_2174Every child needs to learn their name and who is in their family (2 Cor 5:17; 1 John 3:1). Paul learned his identity and the culture of his spiritual family. After being healed, Paul was baptized (Acts 9:18). Paul also spent some time with the disciples in Damascus (Acts 9:19). These disciples would later help save him because he was set apart for a specific purpose in the family of God (Acts 9:25). Paul accounts for this purpose, knowing his role and thus identity, in his letter to the Galatians (Gal 1:16-17). Specifically, in order to fulfill his purpose, some suggest this is why Paul may have traveled to Arabia. Every young believer needs to grow in the understanding of their identity in Christ and purpose in the church.

Children eventually begin to roll over, crawl, take steps, and eventually walk. Paul learned how to walk in obedience through the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16, 25). Ananias laid hands on Paul to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). The results of such filling led to the proclamation of the Gospel. Filled with the Spirit and gaining a deeper appreciation day-by-day of the marvelous fulfillment of the Old Testament expectations of Jesus, Saul’s presentation of Jesus becomes more and more powerful. Testimony of Paul’s walking with Christ spread and people noticed (Gal 1:23). Growth in walking in obedience enabled Paul to converse and debate the Hellenistic Jews (Acts 9:29). Paul’s growth also enabled him to reproduce the faith into Titus (Gal 2:1). Every young believer needs to grow in their understanding of the Holy Spirit and walking in obedience.

Many children begin to talk by making incoherent sounds, usually screaming or crying, which eventually become words because the parents foster the ability of communication. The parents talk to the baby and as they grow it turns into coaxing certain words or phrases. Paul learned how to share his story and God’s story (
e.g. Luke 11:1; Eph 4:29; Col 4:6). After some time with the disciples, Paul began sharing how Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 19:20). The verbal sharing of his story aided his acceptance into the community in Jerusalem (Acts 9:27). Further, Paul displayed competency by going with the apostles in proclaiming Jesus (Acts 9:28). Later, when Paul writes his letter to the Galatians he specifically accounts for his life pre-conversion and post-conversion (Gal 1:13-14). Every young believer needs to mature in their understanding of God’s cosmic plan of redemption and its fulfillment in Jesus Christ and sharing how God’s story impacts their life.

IMG_4373I remember the first time I gave my son a spoon to feed himself. He had to learn the coordination and how to use the spoon. Like my son, Paul learned how to feed himself and grow spiritually by using the tools to which he had access such as the Old Testament (Acts 9:22; 1 Peter 2:2; Jer 15:16). Paul testifies to this personal growth by venturing to Arabia (Gal 1:17). After Paul comes to understand who Jesus is, he then checks his doctrine against the Jerusalem church (Gal 1:21-2:1). Because Paul had come to understand the gospel and allowed it to shape his growth, Paul was able to identify false doctrine (Gal 2:4). Paul also persevered in holding to the truth based on his understanding of the gospel and was not swayed to abandon it (Gal 2:5). Every young believer needs to mature in their understanding of how to read and understand the Word of God.

Finally, every child needs to learn how to groom themselves and dispose of their waste properly. Paul learned how to clean himself by fleeing from sin and purifying his life (e.g. Matt 23:27; 1 John 1:9). One of the by-products of Paul’s new life in Christ was that people who knew him prior to his conversion witnessed a difference (Acts 9:21). Those in Jerusalem were still skeptical of Paul’s new life, but Barnabas was able to testify on his behalf of the change Paul experienced (Acts 9:26-27). Three years had passed and Paul had maintained his faithfulness to Christ. Further, Paul did not fall back into legalistic temptations, specifically as it pertained to the issue of circumcision (Gal 1:13-2:6). Paul’s commitment to holiness can be seen in his testimony in Acts 20:26-34 as well. Every young believer needs to grow in their understanding of their own sinfulness and how to put it to death.

When following up with a new believer they will not be able to mature alone. As they mature, the knowledge must be manifested in action. Throughout the journey, Paul had Ananias, the disciples in Damascus, Barnabas, and eventually those in Jerusalem who could account for Paul’s faith. Every development marker is interconnected with and even contingent upon the others. Just a spiritual disciplines must be practiced, the key developmental markers must being practiced and pursued. Should the “believer” be unable to articulate their conversation the seed may have fallen on the path (Mark 4:15). Should the “believer” be unable to walk in Christ or feed themselves the seed may have fallen on the rocky soil (Mark 4:17). Should the “believer” be unable to groom themselves or believe their identity the seed may have been choked out by the thorns (Mark 4:19). Being malnourished in any way results in premature death and are unable to reach an age of reproduction.

The goal for the young believer is long-term faithfulness and obedience to Christ resulting in Christlikeness. In order to ensure such development, the disciple-maker must only focus on a few spiritual babies at a time. By knowing the five developmental markers, a disciple-maker can intentionally structure conversations and action items such as spiritual disciplines needed to improve the young believer’s deficiencies. Following-up in this way is highly customizable, relational, reproducible, and missional. Paul’s journey accurately depicts the developmental markers necessary for a new believer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Bowl 2016 Devo

Below is a devotion I gave at halftime of a youth ministry Super Bowl party.

I’ve been learning more and more about the life of Christ. Below are some questions that got me thinking from someone who has taught me about the life of Jesus named Dann Spader:

Did Jesus ever get hurt on the playground?

Did Jesus ever make a mistake? (remember a mistake is not necessarily sin)

Do you think that Jesus as a kid ever used his God powers?

Did Jesus ever question what to do next?

Did Jesus ever get sick?

Did Jesus have a favorite Jewish stickball team?

Did Jesus ever have a bad day spiritually where God the Father seemed far away?

Did Jesus ever get subtweeted or have an embracing snapchat saved?

Jesus was a teenager like you and me at one time too. He wasn’t born at 30 years of age. He had to learn to obey. He increased in wisdom and stature. Jesus was a middle schooler once. He was a high schooler once. Jesus was a twenty-something too. Jesus had to make choices. He had to wrestle with who he was as a person and what he was going to do with his life.

Right now these story lines of identity and history are playing out before our very eyes in the NFL. One of the many storylines in this Super Bowl is the story of Peyton Manning’s past greatness and professionalism and Cam Newton’s rise to the face of the NFL. The narrative that the media tells about Cam deals directly with learning to grow up. Essentially, what he has said regarding his image is causing so much controversy. “You can’t compare me to anyone.” Cam dabs and he dances. “You’ve never seen anyone like me before,” as he grins ear to ear. Cam has the I can do it all mentality.

Cam intrigues the the casual fan because  people either are drawn to him and his attitude, or you’ve come to get fed up with him because he doesn’t act like a “quarterback”—essentially that he doesn’t act like Peyton.

With his rise, Cam is saying forget imitating anyone else, I’m going to be me. This is a powerful position. It’s powerful because the tension is very real where you embrace this line of thinking in light of Scripture. The tension between being unique by being us and imitating Godly men and women. Often we cheer, be yourself, but being yourself without a sense of Scripture is honestly dangerous. Because all throughout scripture we are taught to imitate others, not only in action, but inner thinking and in our heart by loving God and loving people. Paul says imitate me as I imitate Christ. A true disciple learns how to think and act like his teacher—imitation within the head and heart, as well as actions. So, as you look at your own life who are you imitating?

As you reflect on who you are imitating with your life. I’d like to point you to the person we are to imitate. As we go through this life 1 John 2:6 says, “The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.” We do what Jesus did. We are to think and act like Jesus. We do this because of faith.

What does it mean to walk as Jesus walked? Literally we are to step the the footprints he has laid out for us. Trust that his footprints lay out a good path for our life. I think of when it snows and there are inches upon inches. Is it wiser to charge your own path and get snow in your boots or step where people have stepped. We can step through the snow after Jesus because he was tempted just like us in every way and did not give into sin as he stepped through this life. We can do this because Jesus lived through his teenage years. He lost loved ones. He struggled with how popular or not popular he was. He wrestled with the meaning of his life and mission. Because of his struggle and his victory, by faith, let’s imitate his character and priorities.  Faith being a foundational mindset and lifestyle, the writer of Hebrews says this in regard to imitating those who learned to live like Jesus wanted them to…

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”

When we walk as Jesus walked, we will lay aside sin because we have a team of people on a journey of following Jesus. We will look to Jesus and imitate his character and priorities that he showed in his life on earth. We will keep our eyes on the rise Lord because He has made it.

When we keep our eyes on Jesus and walk as he walked. We will marvel at the greatness of Jesus and rise to make an impact and affect generations to come—whether you become as polarizing as Cam in a Christ centered way, or you stay reserved and faithful and out of controversy like Peyton, either way people will talk and you can point to Jesus.

If you want to do something meaningful with your life you will keep your eyes on the exalted Jesus and imitate the Jesus that walked on this earth.