Category Archives: Quick Thoughts

A more compelling truth

I wanted to share a quick thought from worship this morning that effectively reiterates the number one lesson I’ve learned while writing this blog during the last year.

Today’s discussion wrapped up a multi-week series on Ephesians with verses 6:10-20 which discusses the “Armor of God.” In his commentary on verse 15:

and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace

the speaker landed on a point that I will paraphrase below:

When I present the gospel, people don’t disagree with me because it’s wrong. They disagree with me because I haven’t presented a more compelling truth.

I think that this idea follows logically, and necessarily, from believing the authority of the Bible as truth. As a Christian, I believe that I must be ready to communicate that truth. My observation, however, is that the majority of our efforts to present that truth, including many of the ways I learned to “do evangelism” growing up, fall painfully short of presenting the full truth – and often with negative consequences. Take the Harold Camping approach, for example, or the culture warriors or the evangelizers that Gabe Lyons discusses.

Based on my experience and my own spiritual journey, I contend that I have never found a better opportunity to present the whole compelling truth of the gospel than in the context of relationships facilitated by interfaith dialogue. Why? Because the interfaith movement is built on three basic principles: service, storytelling and relationships. Activities which, for a Christian, are exactly in stride with the ministry of Christ.

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What do we call ourselves?

I really enjoyed this from Skye Jethani: Why Are There No “Christians” on Twitter?

He notes that in his wanderings of Twitter profiles, “Very few used the word Christian, and no one used the word Evangelical” to describe themselves.

And then he brings up a great point, which is that “Evangelical is applied so broadly that few seem to believe it holds much meaning,” which presents an interesting issue to our discussion of evangelicals and the interfaith movement.

To add to Skye’s point, my Twitter profile identifies me by my activities and not explicitly by my faith:

MD/PhD student at the University of Illinois. Leading @globalhealthIL, co-founder of @flprotestants, long-time @uiucinterfaith enthusiast.

But I resonate with Skye’s point that the term evangelical is tricky – it seems to carry a lot of baggage in addition to holding a rather vague definition. What’s interesting to me is that I’m most comfortable calling myself an evangelical in the interfaith setting. Why?

Because I know that folks who do interfaith work aren’t going to immediately jump to conclusions based on how I describe my faith. Outside of an interfaith context, I don’t have that luxury: I fear that people will jump to conclusions and ascribe certain qualities based on some of the more prominent (and abrasive) so-called evangelicals. I’ve talked about this a little bit in the past.

At the end of the day, I’m interested in showing people the characteristics of the compassionate, loving example I follow in Jesus and to communicate the message of the gospel in the same manner. I hope that choosing to call myself an evangelical won’t lead people to jump to negative conclusions about my character before I have a chance to do that.

Perhaps this is just another reason why we need more evangelicals doing interfaith work. It’s also another example of why actions must speak louder than words.

In case you missed the link, Skye’s blog is here: http://www.skyejethani.com/why-are-there-no-%E2%80%9Cchristians%E2%80%9D-on-twitter/1204/

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A new paradigm

I came across this article in an e-mail from John Morehead, Director of the Evangelical Christian chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. And although it was published two years ago, I think it continues to be a valid statement to call this a “new” paradigm of Christian and non-Christian dialogue.

So after an assessment of what the old paradigm of dialogue was, you get to the author’s description of the new paradigm and some things really resonate.

First, in setting a place at the table, so to speak, for evangelicals to participate:

No longer do partners seek the lowest common denominator between traditions, but rather embrace and encourage differences. This move against the relativistic tendencies of the old paradigm encourages a more robust dialogue in which each party brings to the discussion what they believe to be binding truth, whether or not those truths are universal among traditions. In this kind of model, exclusivist views are valued, not discouraged.

And then, in the outcomes of taking a dialogue-based approach to sharing the faith:

Having more respect for other religions opens up venues for interfaith dialogue to occur and for relationships to be formed based upon trust, love, and compassion.

There are plenty of compelling reasons, in a world marked too frequently by conflict, violence, and bigotry, to be committed to interfaith relationships based on trust, love, and compassion. But the author also reminds us that these relationships are an approach to a “missionary activity” that is central to the Christian tradition.

Then again, relationships based on genuine trust, love, and compassion communicate aspects of the gospel insomuch that they emulate and demonstrate the character of Christ that perhaps no effective effort at evangelism can afford to be without…

Link to article: http://www.lausanneworldpulse.com/perspectives.php/1224/01-2010?pg=all

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I should really be studying…

The title says it all. But since I’ve failed all evening to focus on memorizing the list of 50 some pathogenic bacteria that sits in front of me, what does another minute or two matter?

I’m really looking forward to posting the last piece in my “5 types of Christians” series that I’ve been slowly publishing over the past month or so. And if you’re attentive, you may have realized by now that, since the series has 6 parts and I’ve already discussed 5 “types,” there’s a surprise 6th “type” coming!

And that type will likely launch us into a recurring theme about what it means to be a “restorer” in a religiously diverse world (a concept that has really helped me find the words to both describe and understand my faith ever since I picked up Gabe Lyon’s The Next Christians).

But unfortunately that discussion has to wait until exams are over.

In the meantime, I was excited to learn today that North Park University (the institution affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church – the denomination in which I was grew up) has been participating in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge! Check it out on page 6 of the North Parker Magazine.

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Testing, Testing…

Well, it’s late Thanksgiving night, and I’m laying in bed at my grandparents’ house, still recovering from the self-induced food coma from earlier in the day. In this downtime, I thought I’d try out updating FLP from my phone. Hopefully it works!

I know it has been awhile since you’ve heard anything from me. Greg has been carrying the weight for the most part over here while I’ve been busy with thesis research, exams, papers, work, and ordination stuff. I hope to get a few posts up soon, especially as it nears the end if the year and we begin to reflect on (and celebrate) one year of FLP. In the meantime, I just think it is cool I can do this from my phone while lying in bed.

– C.

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The evangelical tension and Scot McKnight on the gospel

The purpose of Faith Line Protestants is to talk about evangelicals and the interfaith movement. But that has led me to talking a lot about the gospel. Why? Because the tension between Christians and people of other religious and non-religious traditions almost always lies in (a) the message that is being communicated and (b) how that message is being communicated.

This observation has led me to ask the questions (several times, in fact): (a) what is the message that evangelicals are communicating? and (b) what’s the best way to communicate that message?

I become concerned when negative  interfaith tension comes from the evangelical’s emphasis on personal salvation (i.e. the “heaven or hell?” focus) and fails to tell the whole story of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. When this is the case, the problem lies in both the (truncated) message and the method of communication.

Scot McKnight was recently interviewed on the Covenant Church website about his latest book The King Jesus Gospel and touches directly on some of the issues related to my thoughts above. Enjoy:

http://www.covchurch.org/news/2011/11/08/expanding-the-gospel-beyond-who%E2%80%99s-in-and-who%E2%80%99s-out/

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The consequences of youth ministry

Skye Jethani commented recently on an idea put forth by Tony Jones, suggesting that relational youth ministry is responsible for the emerging church movement (read Tony’s blog here).

Jethani suggests some of the unintended consequences that may have come from the model of youth ministry that has been practiced for the past several decades:

…I’m concerned that youth ministry is forming the values of isolation and activism into Millennials. They’re relationally isolated from other generations in the church, and their faith is isolated from any sense of calling or vocation. At the same time they are linking faith to social action toward the poor and marginalized, but this is often emotionally driven without a theological rootedness that can fuel engagement when emotion runs dry. Without a robust theology of justice, in time compassion fatigue may set in and activism slip into apathy.”

And it got me to thinking. What does this mean about the way the next generation of Christians relates to a religiously-diverse world? Social action that is not rooted in theology is a concern – especially when social action is the way one relates to people of other faith traditions. What do you think?

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Taking the discussion up a notch

We’re going to give something new a try on Faith Line Protestants starting today, and if you’re reading this, you know what I’m talking about. We’re calling it “Thoughts and Links.”

Cameron and I realized that there is an incredible number of things we encounter on a day-to-day basis that we’d like to share with our readers – but we simply don’t have the time to always write a full-fledged blog entry to tell you about them. Hence our new addition to FLP. We hope to share quick stories, thoughts, photos, links, etc. much more regularly with our readers through this new platform.

But don’t worry! Our featured posts (complete with corny stock photography) that you’ve come to know and love will still keep showing up, but we’ll keep things a little more frequent with “Thoughts and Links. ”

To get things started, I’ll try to dig up some of that stuff that has been distracting me from studying for exams for the past few weeks to share with you all…

Best,

Greg

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