If there’s no movement forward in our thinking and conversation on topics, then I tend to find it a futile exercise in the long run.
… the word ‘Evangelical’ has a long history — people have written whole books about it — and like many other words it means subtly different things in the UK from what it means in the USA. (And neither corresponds to the German word evangelisch, which often simply means ‘Lutheran’ as opposed to katholisch, Catholic.)
I’m not always sure quite how useful these attempts at definition and description may be. I was once asked to speak at a big conference on the subject ‘what is an Evangelical?’, and I refused, and offered instead to speak on the far more interesting and complex subject: ‘What tasks is God calling the church to undertake today and tomorrow? What resources are there in the Evangelical traditions which will enable us to carry out those tasks? What resources will we need for those tasks which are NOT normally found in the Evangelical traditions, and which we will need to import from elsewhere?’
At least I don’t want the weird ones to hijack the term, Lord have mercy!
Here are a few things I observe historians of evangelicalism stressing:
1. Always central is focus on Jesus Christ, affirming that the human Jesus, the rabbi of Nazareth, is also the ascended Lord. Unitarians respected Jesus but did not keep the Jesus-focus, and many liberal Protestants wavered or wandered or progressed beyond it.
2. Evangelicals have high views of biblical authority. In the fundamentalist and neo-evangelicals many attached this to a philosophical view which contended that there could be no "errors" in God’s word. They disagreed with each other on many things that should have been agreeable-to in the inerrant Bible, but they agreed on its inerrancy. Today’s evangelicals continue to have a high view of biblical authority, but many find the inerrancy approach confining and not true to the scriptural teaching itself.
3. The key theme of the "evangel" is God’ grace, the call for faith, and not depending upon human "works" to please God.
4. Evangelicals stress a conversion experience–each believer certifies an experience or at least a process of turning, powered by the Holy Spirit.
5. Fundamentalists knew how the world would end, and wanted no one "Left Behind." Many evangelicals have apocalyptic views and all believe that the End of History is in God’s hands, in Christ. But they don’t hold to a single defining and confining literalism about the end.
6. And this is huge, and being recovered: evangelicals believed and believe that, after being "saved by grace through faith" they were and are to make faith active in love, through works of mercy and, though less clearly, works of justice. Today many new energies–including embrace of environmental and justice issues–moves evangelicals.
The full post is worth the time.
If I could begin ministry all over again, I would spend time seeking to become a healthier person, emotionally and spiritually. I spent a chunk of time serving in an area where I simply did not fit well, where some of my deepest convictions were not congruent, because I was not self-aware enough to have a clear sense of what I valued and believed. I was stuck in a tradition and setting that was familiar and comfortable, but where I did not feel like I could truly be myself; where I could not really talk about the ideas and beliefs that resonated most deeply in me. And I needed people’s approval too much to be able to serve them well. And my neediness made me too defensive to be able to learn from the criticisms that are inevitably a part of ministry.
If I could start all over again, I would spend more time in solitude getting ready for ministry. I would have spent more time getting feedback from people who knew me best. I would try to walk through the pain of letting go what I thought I needed to do and who it was I thought I needed to be so that I could have served with more freedom and effectiveness. I would try to put less pressure on my wife to be committed to my success, rather than to embrace her own gifts and calling.
I would have read Dallas Willard sooner.
Thanks Bob … now, I’m keen on getting the book … Too many of us are just in "trying" mode (and then we simply land up in a guilt/shame trip), when what we need is to swith to "training" mode.
"One of my mentors contrasts deciding and trying with training. Deciding is necessary, he says. Nobody finds out they’ve accidentally trained for a marathon for six months without intending to. But deciding isn’t enough, as all of us who have decided to lose weight know. I could even add to my deciding a healthy dose of trying: Sincerely! Passionately! With great commitment and resolution! But unless I put between my decision and the starting line sufficient training of the right sort, it will be ‘Marathon- 26.5, Brian- 0’
That same mentor defines training like this: employing appropriate actions within our power by which we become capable of doing things currently beyond our power, and by which we become people we are currently incapable of being. Those "appropriate actions" we could further define as practices. And the community of people who teach us the practices we could define as a community of practice that carries on the tradition…
Most of the truly important skills we learn in life come through training, practice, and tradition or community. For example, we didn’t learn to speak our native tongue by deciding or trying, but by training. We didn’t even realize we were in training, and our parents (who were the community of practice, carrying on the tradition of English or Chinese or Zulu or whatever) probably didn’t even realize that they were training us most of the time… Similarly, when they withheld something from us until we said ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ they were the community training us in the tradition of community, and we were practicing so that courtesy would become natural to us.
It took a couple of years of practice, but in the process, largely without realizing it, we became fluent speakers of our native tongue, and maybe courteous people, to boot. Without the community, without the tradition, and without the practice neither possibility would have been actualized."
Last Sunday was the first time I tried to meditate with the whole congregation more extensively on an Icon! Love this quote by Nouwen:-)
"Andrew Rublev painted this icon not only to share the fruits of his own meditation on the mystery of the Holy Trinity but also to offer his fellow monks a way to keep their hearts centered in God while living in the midst of political unrest. The more we look at this holy image with the eyes of faith, the more we come to realize that it is painted not as a lovely decoration for a convent church, nor as a helpful explanation of a difficult doctrine, but as a holy place to enter and stay within. As we place ourselves in front of the icon in prayer, we come to experience a gentle invitation to participate in the intimate conversation that is taking place among the three divine angels and to join them around the table. The movement from the Father toward the Son and the movement of both Son and Spirit toward the Father become a movement in which the one who prays is lifted up and held secure. . . .
Through the contemplation of this icon we come to see with our inner eyes that all engagements in this world can bear fruit only when they take place within this divine circle. The words of the psalm, "The sparrow has found its home at last. . . . Happy are those who live in your house" (Ps 84: 3,4) are given new depth and new breadth; they become words revealing the possibility of being in the world without being of it. We can be involved in struggles for justice and in actions for peace. We can be part of the ambiguities of family and community life. We can study, teach, write and hold a regular job. We can do all of this without ever having to leave the house of love. . . . Rublev’s icon gives us a glimpse of the house of perfect love" (Nouwen 20-22)