4

4 Reasons Why Christians Should Support New Church Plants

foundry-church

I get really excited when I hear about new church plants. I get particularly hyped up when those church plants are being led by faithful pastors and families that I know and trust, and who exhibit the unique gifts and abilities for the difficult task before them.

Not all church plants succeed, and there are many factors that play into that reality. But I believe we are called as The Church to continue stepping out in faith and planting churches strategically at every possible opportunity.

I am really excited about one particular new church plant that is happening in Sterlington, Louisiana. Why Louisiana, you ask? Because that’s where my good friend Chad Brooks and his wife Meredith live with their dachshund Emma, and have been pastoring for the last few years in traditional United Methodist Church.

Chad is one of the most unique individuals I have ever met, and we had a chance to work together and get to know one another well in seminary. He is one of those individuals who has been gifted by God and prepared in very unique ways to plant churches, and I couldn’t be more excited that he is getting the chance to do so right now with Foundry.

With so many churches struggling financially today, you might wonder why I am pointing to the ministry of a church other than my own. Here are just four reasons why I believe Christians should give financially to support new church plants.

4 Reasons for Christians to Support New Church Plants

1. It extends the Great Commission

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives a commission to the church:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This is known as the Great Commission, and it is the primary responsibility of the Church. All other good deeds of the Church are ultimately fruitless if we forget this one thing.

When we invest in planting new churches, we invest in the Great Commission, by sending God’s people into new contexts where they can reach unchurched or de-churched populations with the gospel message of hope and peace with God.

2. It helps us to reach areas we can’t reach ourselves

I am a local church pastor, and I love my job. Our church is working to be a light for our local community and to build on another up in the faith. But the truth of the matter is that we have a limited reach. There is only so far that we can spread ourselves out, and there are only so many places we can physically go to spread the love of God.

When Christians support new church plants, we are extending our reach into areas that we cannot physically go. We equip those who are already in contexts outside our own to do the work of the gospel in those places. This is not a form of slacktivism or lazy mission, it is recognizing that we are finite people with limited capabilities, and that sometimes the best thing we can do for mission is to equip others to go where we cannot

3. It models the church in Acts by pooling resources.

On of the marks of the early church in the book of Acts is that they shared everything they had in common, distributing their resources as each person had need (Acts 2:44-47).

When Christians support the mission and ministry of new church plants, we engage in the same sort of resource sharing that marked the early church. Through pooled resources, we can increase our effectiveness as a global Church to reach even more people with the good news of Jesus Christ, and we can meet even more needs through acts of mercy done in his name.

4. We need more churches.

With churches closing all over the country, some people might ask why in the world we would support a new church plant.

Folks, that is precisely why we need to support new church plants. We need more churches. We need churches that don’t look like our church. We need churches that enter new contexts. We need churches that reach the unreached. We need churches to enter and redeem communities that are broken and without hope, through the message of the cross.

We need churches, because there are millions of people in our country (and countless others elsewhere), who are living apart from the love and grace and mercy of our God, and who desperately need to meet Jesus face-to-face.

We need more churches!

Get Started

I encourage all Christians to partner with a new church plant. Whether it is a church meeting a need in your own community or one outside your context, Christians have an opportunity and an obligation to invest sacrificially in the mission of the church.

If you are looking for a good place to start, I highly recommend you take a look at Foundry. I am excited to see how the Spirit of God moves in their context over these next months and years.

Yes, pray for them. Yes give them your moral support. But I also encourage you to support them financially. We are called to be a generous people, and what better way to begin than by investing in much needed new church plants? If you would like to support Foundry, you can do so through their online giving page.

20

Is Christian Maturity a Pipe Dream?

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*Edit: This post has received a lot of attention, so let me add a disclaimer. If you are a Rachel Held Evans fan, please read the entire article before commenting. You will see that I am not a Driscoll-ite, nor am I attempting to defame RHE (she has written some great stuff). I am bringing up a serious concern over the manner in which Christians debate. This particular scenario just happens to provide an excellent object lesson.*

If you are an evangelical Christian, run in those circles, or know anyone who does, you have probably heard the name Rachel Held Evans spoken at some point. Evans is, by all accounts, a dynamic, intelligent progressive Christian blogger, who has gathered quite the following in the last few years for her over-the-top style and ubiquity in the media.

Evans has had a particular negative interest in Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll for some time now. She takes issue with his anti-feminist teachings, blatant machismo, and authoritarian attitude toward the running of his church families’ lives.

To be sure, his antics, which are often featured in newspaper articles as examples of Christian extremism, are many times detestable to those of us who believe women have an important role to play in the church and world. There have been a number of recent outcries for his silence or discipline from outside Mars Hill Church, and there has even been some dissent from inside his own flock.

But Evans has taken her hatred (and I don’t use that word lightly) of Driscoll to new, and unhealthy, levels. A quick search on her website reveals that she has mentioned Driscoll on her blog at least a staggering 66 times. All of it painting Driscoll in a negative light, and often employing words like bullying and ranting to describe Driscoll’s words.

Recently, Evans posted another article about Driscoll that has been picked up by major news outlets and is spreading like wildfire across the internet. In it, she shares several thousand words scraped together from Mars Hill’s internal message boards by angry former church members, where Mark Driscoll (under the pseudonym William Wallace II) makes some incredibly distasteful comments about both men and women in the church. It is significant to note that these are not recent comments, but ones Driscoll wrote fourteen years ago.

Evans’ gleeful response to this new ammunition in her war against all things Driscoll is, in my opinion, just as distasteful as the comments themselves. As she claims to take her readers “Inside Mark Driscoll’s Disturbed Mind,” her hatred is unrestrained. It puts me in mind of all those nature documentaries I watched as a kid, where predators would single out the wounded prey, separate them from the herd, and then pounce in a bloody flurry of claws and teeth.

It all makes me shudder.

In a day and age not too far removed from now, this sort of vitriolic speech would be called something else entirely – slander – and the one issuing it could be held to account. These days, it seems anything goes, so long as it helps to sell add space or validate personal feelings of mistreatment.

Let me be clear about something. My concern here is not for Mark Driscoll. He has demonstrated an unbiblical approach to masculinity, femininity, and sex and has too often given Christianity a black eye with his mouth and his antics.

I don’t like what he says, and I don’t allow him to speak for me as man or a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

My concern here is not for Rachel Held Evans, either. Her approach to her disagreement with Driscoll is little better than the target of her outrage.

My concern is for the people of Mars Hill Church, many of whom do not understand what all of the humdrum is about, and who will be left leaderless, confused, and possibly jaded if Evans has her way and Driscoll is suddenly forcibly removed from his position as pastor.

And my concern is also for everyone else whose Facebook and Twitter feeds are inundated with flowing hate-speech from two sides of a very public argument, both of which claim to be Christian.

Yes, when Jesus walked the earth he made jabs at self-righteous religious leaders. But his mission was not to start a hate campaign against the Pharisees and Sadducees. He spent the bulk of his time healing the sick, loving the poor, and preaching the good news of his Father’s Kingdom and reconciliation with God through himself.

No one can claim either Evans or Driscoll are walking in Jesus’ footsteps in this. 

Our society has largely lost the ability to discern fact from fiction, truth from hype. If you question whether or not this is so, I offer you the case of the recent internet prank in which a Facebook user posted an old picture from the set of Jurassic Park with director Steven Spielberg sitting in front of an animatronic dinosaur with the caption labeling him as a disgraceful hunter posing next to the Triceratops he slaughtered. The public outrage was swift and real. Really people? You can read about it here and here.

What concerns me most is that this lack of discernment seems to have worked its way into the church as well. I watch with amazement, every time one of these articles is released, as faithful followers of Christ devolve into mobs of internet trolls taking one side or the other, spewing uncontrolled hatred through their keyboards, and making a mockery of the cross through their actions.

We must be more discerning than this.

As those called to witness to the good news of Jesus Christ, we must find a better way – the way of humility and self-sacrifice. We must learn to take in what we read and hear, then filter it through the the message of scripture before reposting it with our self-righteous sound bytes.

Let me be clear: it is not un-Christian to have opinions, or to express them, or to point out folly and false teachings where they exist. These are right and good. But we should do so in a manner that conforms to the message we have received. In other words, we must respond with spiritual maturity.

Hear these words from Paul to the church at Philippi, while he was in prison for preaching the gospel in Rome.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. (Phil 1:27-28a)

Mark Driscoll’s reign will likely come to an end, if he doesn’t change his tune. We should pray for his change of heart before that happens, and for the people under his spiritual care in either case.

In the meantime, I hope we as a church will learn to discern what is the good and proper way to disagree with one another, offering the grace that we first received in the place of hatred and contempt.

Let us be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16), so that, in our disagreements, we do not bring shame upon ourselves and damage our witness to the gospel.

 

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Productive Pastor Interview: Ministry, Productivity, and Kids

The Productive Pastor Podcast is a ministry of Chad Brooks | revchadbrooks.com

The Productive Pastor Podcast in a ministry of Chad Brooks | revchadbrooks.com

I had an awesome chance to do a live video interview with my good friend and fellow pastor Chad Brooks yesterday for The Productive Pastor Podcast. We talked about productivity in ministry as a parent, and the unique blessings and challenges kids bring to both. This was the first live video interview Productive Pastor has done, and we had a small technical glitch at the beginning. Stick around, though, for a great discussion about what it means to be a parent in ministry, and how we can be both parents and productive.

The video is up on YouTube if you would like to check it out. Or you can view it below. Also, be sure to check out the The Productive Pastor Podcast on the web or iTunes and leave a rating to help keep this valuable ministry resource visible and accessible.

 

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Around the Web: May 23, 2014

around-the-web

I admit that I have been slacking off with regard to my blog these last couple of weeks. Life has gotten very busy, and while I’ve started some posts, I haven’t found the internal fortitude to finish them. That should all clear up soon, so stick with me.

In the meantime, and as further evidence of my slacking, here are the posts from last week’s reading that I never got around to posting. Enjoy!

Church
OnFaith (FaithStreet.com): You May Be Going to Heaven, But You Won’t Be Staying There
CNN Belief Blog: New clues cast doubt on ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’

United Methodist Church
Dr. Tim Tennent: Orthodoxy vs. Heterodoxy, The Fundamental Divide in the United Methodist Church

Community
USA Today: Beautiful Kentucky

Life
YouTube: Look Up (video)

Fun
TastefullyOffensive: Dogs Annoying Cats With Their Friendship (video)
22Words: IT guy denies knowing what photocopiers are in hilarious (and real) courtroom exchange (video)

Geek
ShortList: Books that Predicted the Future
Gozmodo: This is the best gift any man (or woman) can have

Have you run across any great articles this week that had an impact on you? Share them with me in the comments, and I’ll give you a Hat Tip if I use them in a future post.

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Review of The Contemplative Pastor

Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993)

I’ve been meaning to read The Contemplative Pastor for quite some time. It has been recommended to me several times over the years by friends and colleagues that I trust. But like all things that come highly recommended, a person has to decide for oneself whether or not to take the plunge and see what all the hype is about.

After receiving yet another recommendation for the book this January, I finally decided to pick up a copy for kindle. Was it equal to the hype? Well, yes and no.

If you are of a certain personality or mindset, the poetic language of Peterson’s work will no doubt draw you into his story and speak to your soul. Though I enjoy poetry and am a creative professional, I have always struggled with poetic language in pros. So in some ways, it made the book a little bit less accessible to me. It wasn’t an easy read.

On the other hand, that may have been Peterson’s point. The language forced me to slow down, to think through what is being said, to – in essence – become contemplative.

When I think of a book that I would classify as “awesome” I typically think of something I can’t put down, a real page turner. Peterson’s book required multiple sittings for me. I had to put it down, so that I could think about what I had just read. Some parts of it frustrated me, while others spoke deeply to my soul.

The Contemplative Pastor is not the kind of book that I can jump up and down, waving my arms enthusiastically about. It is not the sort of book I can recommend to every casual reader that I meet. But it is precisely the sort of book I needed to read as a pastor, and for those who are seeking to live deeper spiritual lives of service – I can’t recommend it highly enough! You don’t have to be a pastor to gain from this work.

In the first part of the book, Peterson attempts to redefine the role of the pastor. This role has changed drastically in the last hundred years. Pastors are now, more than ever, expected to ‘be all things to all people’. They are preachers, counselors, wedding planners, event coordinators, coaches, theologians, building supervisors, chaplains, personnel managers, and friends, just to name a few. Peterson argues that, while none of these things are bad, the pastor is called to a specific set of roles (not jobs, but identities) that must be made primary for the pastor to fulfill his or her responsibilities.

Peterson suggests that the pastor’s role in the community of faith is, first and foremost, to be: 1) unbusy, 2) subversive, and 3) apocalyptic. And he goes on to explain quite convincingly what these mean and why pastors who allow all of the other necessities of the job to interfere with these three are in danger of burnout, frustration, and failure.

In the second part of the book, Peterson turns to the work and life of the pastor between Sundays; what he calls ordinary ministry. It is what I have previously referred to as ministry in the everyday. In this section, he talks about the importance of remembering our call to “cure souls”, becoming attentive in prayer, and learning to discern what is going on in the deeper recesses of people’s souls, looking past what displays on the surface, and recognizing the realities of everyday life that people face.

Peterson goes on to speak frankly about the reality of spiritual growth, the importance of “small talk” (i.e., living together in authentic relationships daily), and the new way in which modern people are “unwell”. He also takes this opportunity to reflect on his sabbatical year, which prompted this book, talking about the deep trust that was built up between him and his congregation during that time, and the fruits that have arisen from it.

In the third part of the book, Peterson gives the reader a collection of his own poems for consideration. He says that poets and pastors have a lot in common, because of our careful use of words. He suggests that pastors become allies with poets, and in this final section, he demonstrates his kinship with poets through his own contemplative verse.

Altogether, The Contemplative Pastor is a good read that I highly recommend for pastors, church leaders, or anyone who seeks to live a deeply spiritual life of service. It may frustrate or confuse you at times, but it will most definitely stretch you, nourish your soul, and give you incredible food for thought.

Pick up a copy today and get to reading…

 

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John Wesley on the Nature of Repentance

wesleyan-wednesdays

Repentance isn’t a word that is often used outside of the church. It carries little to no meaning for those who aren’t familiar with the ‘insider’ language of sermons and worship songs.

Come to think of it, I can’t recall the last time I sang a worship song that spoke of repenting, nor do I remember recently hearing a sermon calling people to repentance.

I will be the first to admit that this word is, in some ways, a very ugly one. It carries with it some significant baggage. I have heard this word used to shame, ridicule, and even frighten people into adherence to certain moral behaviors.  Used in this way, repentance primarily means to admit that one is wrong. ‘Admit it, you’re a sinner!’

More often, I have heard it used interchangeably with “saying sorry”, as though to repent means simply to say we are sorry and to God ask ask forgiveness.

In seminary, a new twist to the word ‘repentance’ was offered up to us. To repent, so I was told, means to make a 180 degree turn; to face the opposite way; to change direction from moving away from God to moving toward him.

I’ll admit, I sort of like the last one, and I think it carries some significant weight. But I’ll also admit that I have lived much of my life under the first two definitions of admitting that I am a sinner and saying sorry for it. I think this is where most people fall when they hear the dreaded word repent.

This word has definitely fallen out of use. This is, at least in part, because of all the baggage mentioned above. But there is more to it than this.

Repentance has fallen out of common use both inside and outside the church, because it is linked so closely with sinfulness. And let’s face it, non-Christians do not like to be called sinners, and Christians do not like to be reminded of their sins.

I think the bigger problem, though, is in our common definitions of repentance as admission, saying sorry, and turning around. These definitions all miss a critical component, and one which I think speaks to our context in the 21st century as much as it did to John Wesley’s context in the 18th century.

In his sermon The Way to the Kingdom, Wesley identifies the steps toward becoming a citizen in God’s kingdom. He begins where the Biblical writers do, with repentance:

And first, repent, that is, know yourselves. This is the first repentance, previous to faith, even conviction, or self-knowledge.1

We, in the West, live in societies which value self-knowledge above all other things. This is evident in our emphasis upon self-expression, newer self-guided education systems, our advice to young people to find themselves, and our national past-time of protecting and promoting the self-identification of individuals against the common masses.

John Wesley writes that repentance is true self-knowledge, in that it shows us, even before we have come to faith, just how corrupt and sinful we are.

Know that corruption of thy inmost nature, whereby thou are very far gone from original righteousness…Know that thou are corrupted in every power, in every faculty of the soul, that thou art totally corrupted in every one of these, all the foundations being out of course.2

For Wesley, this is the essence of self-knowledge – it recognizes the depth of the disease called original sin, and understands how far the disease has spread into the life of the individual, expressing itself as both inward and outward sin.

Repentance brings the kind of self-awareness that goes farther than identifying moral failures. It shines a spotlight on the soul-corruption that manifests as moral failures, broken relationships, pride, shame, self-hatred, and, somewhat ironically, self-centeredness.

Repentance is an ugly word, because its very meaning is to recognize one’s own inability to do what is good and pleasing to God, or to turn aside his wrath, which we have duly earned.

But there is Good News on the other side of repentance. Even as we come to a true self-knowledge and see our own sin, God steps in to show us his mercy and love.

‘The gospel’ (that is, good tidings, good news for the guilty, helpless sinners) in the largest sense of the word means the whole revelation made to men by Jesus Christ; and sometimes the whole account of what our Lord did and suffered while he tabernacled among men. The substance of all is, ‘Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners;’3 or, ‘God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son, to the end that we might not perish, but have everlasting life;’4 or, ‘He was bruised for our transgressions, he was wounded for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.’5  6

Once we recognize the depth of our need – when we really know ourselves (repent)- only then can we turn to God in faith, through Jesus Christ, and be healed.

Repentance doesn’t have to be the dirty, taboo church word that nobody wants to hear. In its fullest definition, it brings hope to the hopeless and freedom for those enslaved to guilt and shame. Only when we repent, seeing clearly the depth of our sin and helplessness, can we truly turn to God in faith, knowing that he has already reached into our darkness through Jesus and the cross.

But we should also understand this to mean that, while repentance may precede faith, it should not end with it. As Christians, steadily growing in God’s grace, we would do well to begin living into a pattern of repentant living.

Repentant living doesn’t mean living in fear of God, constantly admitting guilt, or saying sorry with every other breath. NO! You have been freed from those through faith in Jesus!

Repentant living means truly knowing yourself; recognizing your wounded brokenness, your proclivities toward sin, and even the inward and outward sins you still commit, and continually offering those up to God our Saviour, who is the only one who can rescue us from all these, and has already done so, if we only believe.

 

 

  1. John Welsey, Works (BE), 1:225. Emphasis mine. []
  2. John Wesley, Works (BE), 1:225 []
  3. Cf. 1 Tim. 1:15 []
  4. Cf. John 3:16 []
  5. Cf. Isa. 53:5 []
  6. Wesley, Works (BE), 1:229 []
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Around the Web: May 2, 2014

around-the-web

Church
Set Apart in Christ: What difference does belief in the Trinity make?

Pastoring & Leadership
Dan Reiland: A Leader’s Identity

United Methodist Church
David F. Watson: The Social Justice Issue the UMC Doesn’t Want to Deal With

Community
AffectiveLiving: What Students Really Need to Hear

Life
LifeHacker: The Best (and Quickest) Ways to Thaw Frozen Food

Fun
HackingChristianity: Order of Worship for #StarWars Sunday, May the Fourth Be With You

Geek
Vocativ: Saliva as Fuel? It’s Not Just Science Fiction
YouTube: Duck Tales Theme Song as a SlowJam (video)

 

Have you run across any great articles this week that had an impact on you? Share them with me in the comments, and I’ll give you a Hat Tip if I use them in a future post.

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The Core Doctrines of Methodism

wesleyan-wednesdays

John Wesley is often referred to as a Folk Theologian, because he never took the time to systematize his thought. This is not to say that he was incapable of such a feat – we remember that he was a distinguished graduate of Oxford – but that he never saw occasion to make this a priority.

I prefer to think that Wesley’s concern was rightly directed elsewhere, because his primary concern was for the people under his care. This led to theological discourses ‘as needed’ to address the concerns of the Methodists.

His preferred mode of conveying theology was through sermons and the Hymns, though he was also known to write letters and treatises to address specific theological critiques or controversies.

One might assume that this ‘occasional’ approach to theological discourse would produce an inconsistent (maybe even incoherent) theology, but with Wesley we find (mostly) the opposite. As a Pastoral Theologian, Wesley had in mind the needs of his people, but not just their temporary needs; even moreso, he had in mind their eternal needs. And this meant discussing regularly the grand narrative of God’s activity throughout history and humanity’s participation in God’s reality.

But he was also conscious of the tendency to focus too much attention on one thing or another, to the extent that others are neglected. And so, Wesley boiled down the theology of the church to three core doctrines, by which he believed the Methodists of his day would be know.

I have again and again, with all the plainness I could, declared what our constant doctrines are, whereby we are ‘distinguished’—only from heathens, or nominal Christians, not from any that worship God in spirit and in truth. Our main doctrines, which include all the rest, are three, that of repentance, of faith, and of holiness. The first of these we account as it were, the porch of religion; the next, the door; the third is religion itself.1

In Wesley’s mind, all other doctrines were related to these three. Focus on these and all other issues of faith – belief and action alike – would fall into place.

I wonder sometimes, as the United Methodist church engages in heated debate, whether we have forgotten these core doctrines as the key to our identity as a faithful expression of Jesus’ church?

When we focus only upon repentance and its related doctrines, we are left on the wrong side of the cross, not living fully into the resurrection promises of God and our new reality as his adopted sons and daughters.

When we focus only on faith, without an understanding of sin and transformation or a theology of God’s Kingdom, the question quickly becomes, in what is our faith placed and what imperatives does a true faith place on our lives?

When we focus only on holiness, we run the risk of forgetting from where we have come as sinful people, how we have been set free through Jesus Christ, and that it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are sanctified and able to love as God loves.

What if we were to return to a holistic theology, which begins with these core doctrines, then branches out? What would our ‘holy conferencing’ look like then?

 

  1. 1. Wesley, Works (BE), 9:226-27. []
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Around the Web: April 25, 2014

around-the-web

Church
The Atlantic (HT to Seedbed): The Pope in the Attic, Benedict in the Time of Francis

Pastoring & Leadership
Scott Postma: 10 Pastors I’m Concerned About
Thom Rainer: Ten Trends on the Employment of Pastors
CNN: Pope Francis washes the feet of disabled people as part of Easter celebrations (video)
Carey Nieuwhof: 7 Ways Communicators Kill Their Messages (And How to Avoid The Traps)

United Methodist Church
UMR: Wesleyan Wisdom, It’s time to make a change in appointment making

Community
TalkingPointsMemo: Princeton Study, U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

Life
WooHome: 23 Genius Food Hacks Will Change Your Cooking Ways

Fun
22Words: Magician shocks talent show judges with numerous birds out of nowhere…and more (video)

Geek
EliteDaily: Photographer Uses ‘Star Wars’ Figurines to Depict a Day in the Life of a Storm Trooper
– Yes, I realize they are Clone Troopers. I didn’t make the title =)

Have you run across any great articles this week that had an impact on you? Share them with me in the comments, and I’ll give you a Hat Tip if I use them in a future post.

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John Wesley on the Natural (Fallen) State of Humanity

wesleyan-wednesdays

I am currently writing on Wesley’s doctrine of humanity. His theology is firmly grounded in a traditional understanding of original sin, and his words concerning the natural state of humanity (apart from Christ) ring as true today as they did in the 18th century.

Sermon #44, ‘Original Sin’

The Scripture avers that ‘by one man’s disobedience all men were constituted sinners'; that ‘in Adam all died’, spiritually died, lost the life and the image of God; that fallen, sinful Adam then ‘begot a son in his own likeness'; nor was it possible he should beget him in any other, for ‘who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?’ That consequently we, as well as other men, ‘were by nature’ ‘dead in trespasses and sins, ‘without hope, without God in the world’, and therefore ‘children of wrath'; that every man may say ‘I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin did my mother conceive me;’ that ‘there is no difference, in that all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,’ of that glorious image of God wherein man was originally created.

Going on to show that natural religion cannot bring us to a true knowledge of God, Wesley paints a portrait of fallen humanity.

  1. And having no knowledge, we can have no love of God.
  2. We have by nature not only no love, but no fear of God.
  3. Thus are all men ‘atheists in the world’.

With the result that “We ‘have set up our idols in our heart'; and to these we bow down, and worship them. We worship ourselves when we pay that honour to ourselves which is due to God only.”

Wesley’s aim in presenting the state of natural humanity is simple and clear. In order to know which cure is needed, one must first understand the disease.  And what is the cure?

Ye were born in sin; therefore ‘ye must be born again’, ‘born of God’. By nature ye are wholly corrupted; by grace ye shall be wholly renewed. ‘In Adam ye all died;’ in the second Adam, ‘in Christ, ye all are made alive.’ You ‘that were dead in sins hath he quickened’.

And here you will notice that Wesley is speaking, not to heathens or the lost, but to those who profess the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the church. And his exhortation to them still stands today:

He hath already given you a principle of life, even ‘faith in him who loved you, and gave himself for you‘! Now ‘go on’ ‘from faith to faith’, until your whole sickness be healed, and all that ‘mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus’!