Deeper Waters Podcast 9/28/2019

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“Lord. Save me from your followers.” How many people have really been burned badly by the church? They’re that group of people that many of us think we have to see on Sunday and go and put on all of our happy faces and act like everything is just fine in our lives. Many times, you dare not say anything controversial or confess a struggle with sin or anything else, because, well, Christians just don’t do that.

If you grow up in Christian culture, you might sadly be used to this kind of thing and know what to expect in a church. What if you’re an atheist and don’t know what to expect? How do you handle it then? Could it be that some people could be turned away from a church that expects everyone to tow the party line?

What about the way apologetics is treated in the church? Can you really do that there? What about questions such as the appropriateness of beauty? If you’re a woman, is it a case that you have to follow a proper dress code because you’re an object of desire, but the men around you might not be put under that same standard?

My guest is someone who came to Christianity as an adult and found that a major hurdle was the church. Even at her first visit where she was supposed to stand before the church and talk about how she came to Christ, the pastor’s wife saw her outside and told her her outfit was too revealing. Fortunately, she stayed, but how many other seekers might have been turned away?

This lady today is a teacher of apologetics and a highly successful one. Her book is called Why I Still Believe. Her name is Mary Jo Sharp.

So who is she?

According to her bio:

A former atheist from the Pacific Northwest, Mary Jo was raised without religion. She is now an assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University and the founder and director of Confident Christianity Apologetics Ministry. Mary Jo is the author of LifeWay Christian Resources’s “Why Do You Believe That?” Bible study and is working on an upcoming book on hypocrisy titled, “Why I Still Believe,” with Zondervan. She is an itinerant speaker on apologetics throughout North America and has engaged in formal debates on Islam. She focuses on using love and logic in order to uncover truth.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode. If you’ve been watching, we are quickly getting caught up on them and hope to be current before too long. Thank you for your support.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why I Still Believe

What do I think of Mary Jo Sharp’s latest book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I first found out about this book when someone mentioned it in relation to dealing with Jesus mythicism, which it does to some extent, and that got me curious. I got in touch with Mary Jo and was able to get an advance copy for review purposes. I really had no idea at the time what else it was about, but then I saw it looked to deal a lot with hypocrisy in the church. Interesting, but could a whole book really be made about it?

Yes. Yes, indeed.

Not only could a whole book be done, this is one of the best books I’d recommend in helping someone out struggling in this area. Sharp’s book is engaging, but at the same time, it is not preachy. She is an open book in this one and writes about so much of the pain that she has experienced in the church and revealing even what some of her home life is like.

Sharp writes as someone who came to the church culture as an outsider having been an atheist. She then gets involved in the church and on the first Sunday there, the pastor’s wife greets her and tells her she needs to dress better because her clothes look too revealing. Keep in mind Sharp was supposed to go up and announce to the church she had become a Christian, which she did anyway, and there the pastor’s wife put her on the spot like that. Imagine how any investigator of Christianity would have taken it. (And keep in mind that from what I’ve seen in churches, too revealing could mean that if you squint and stare for a few minutes you might see some skin.)

She also talks about bringing a skeptical friend to a church lesson that talked about the age of the Earth. This person knew far more than the teacher including quoting Augustine on the matter. The pastor shut the questioner down and then in the end angrily gave him a stack of literature on the topic of creation. Sharp said she never saw him again and he never returned to the church.

Who can blame him?

Along the way, Sharp discusses issues like the resurrection of Jesus and other Christian claims. One of the more interesting ones she does this with is the topic of beauty. Beauty is something we don’t talk about much in the church. We talk about truth and goodness, but not about beauty. This part was quite exciting.

She also writes about how her own ministry got started, especially with the help of David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi. This is humorously referred to as lessons from a sociopath and an ex-Muslim. The candor and reality of the book is what makes it so endearing.

Sharp also talks about her own struggles. She has a hard time with trusting people and has an idealistic vision of the church and how it should be and gets disappointed when it doesn’t measure up. In some ways, she seems to wish she didn’t know what she did know about apologetics, because it would be so easy to say “This isn’t worth it” and go back to atheism, but she can’t. It’s a reality I can understand and relate to sometimes.

Mary Jo Sharp’s book should be required reading for anyone struggling with what they see in their fellow Christians and expecting something different. At the same time, Sharp also looks at herself in all of this and sees the kind of person she is, which she doesn’t like as well. But then, that is the good news isn’t it? As it is said, if the church only welcomed perfect people, we wouldn’t be members. We can all be imperfect together.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Are Our Churches Teaching?

Are we really being equipped in our churches? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently on my show, I interviewed Clinton Wilcox, a pro-life speaker. He spoke about how if the church got really serious, we could end abortion. This was in the middle of a discussion about why this kind of topic is not normally talked about in churches. I realize there are some that do teach on such serious topics, but the majority I am afraid do not, at least in America.

You see, I can easily predict what you’re hearing in churches most often. Here’s how you deal with guilt. Here’s how you get along with your neighbor. Here’s how you become a better spouse. Nothing wrong with these messages to an extent, but they’re also nothing really unusual to the church. You can get a lot of these from self-help books.

What you can’t get from those is the Gospel. I mean more than just the forgiveness of sins, as great as that is, but also what difference does Christianity make and why is it true? These are questions that are asked every day in our culture. All we are doing often is presenting Christianity as if God is a means to be a better person or a means to get to Heaven.

Let’s talk about some examples. There’s a saying that one in three men in the church struggle with pornography. If you’re a man and you look to the right at church and see a man and he’s okay and to the left and see another man and he’s okay, you could be in trouble. A number of pastors even struggle with pornography. Question. When was the last time you heard a sermon on the sin of pornography and overcoming it?

Along those lines, we live in a culture where more and more young people are living together before they get married. Even older people getting divorced now are doing that. Question. When was the last time you heard a sermon on a Christian view on sex and marriage and why it matters and how you know it’s true?

Go even further and you have issues of homosexuality and transgenderism. This is being spoken of on the news most every day. So what of it? When was the last time you heard a sermon that tackled these issues?

Some could say that with abortion, some pastors could be scared because some women in the congregation have had abortions. Sure. You teach it anyway. Of course, how you teach it matters. A good pastor when teaching will indeed preach on the wickedness and evil of sin and won’t sugarcoat abortion. Yet at the same time, he will teach the awesomeness and greatness of grace and that healing and forgiveness are available for all.

What about other belief systems. It used to be that most people would never encounter an atheist. Now most all of us encounter them and if we don’t, we certainly see them in the media. Are you being told why you should believe that God exists? What difference does it make that He does? Are you being told about the historicity of the New Testament?

What about other belief systems. Now this could depend on your area to be fair. If you are a pastor in Utah, you had better be informed and preaching on Mormonism. It might not be the same in the suburbs of Detroit, but you do find whatever your congregation is most likely to encounter and speak on it.

All of this is simply discipleship. It’s helping us learn not just what we are to do but why we believe we do what we do. Do we do good just to do good? Is Christianity just about being a good person?

We live in an age where and more of our youth are going to college and falling away and more and more people are encountering objections they can’t answer. The church meanwhile is just becoming a social club. You go on Sundays because, well, that’s just what you do. It’s more of a tradition than an actual commitment to Christ.

Yet what if what Clinton said is true. What if we could end abortion if all the churches in America got serious? Is it worth it? Is it worth you getting serious? It’s great to have goals you want your church to accomplish, but what do you want to do yourself even if the church doesn’t go along?

Maybe you should do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Our Failure To Give

Are we not giving enough in ministry? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve said before that I’m a game show junkie. If I’m reaching for the remote, my wife knows that usually I want to turn on GSN. Sunday, I’m watching one of my favorites, Idiotest. There’s a pair of ladies on there who are playing because they want to have enough money to go on a mission trip.

Okay. Let’s be clear right at the start. That’s awesome. People wanting to go on a show and win money not for themselves, but so that they can do something special in ministry. It’s the kind of thing that we should all aspire to. However, despite how great that is, it also indicates something.

The church is failing.

Can any of us imagine in the 1st century Paul going to Caesar and trying to earn more funds so he could do ministry work? Hardly. The church had to give and take care of its own. It was a fledgling movement, but still growing rapidly, and people had to look out for one another. There were people who were wealthy and there were people who were poor.

Whenever we as a church go outside of ourselves in order to raise up the funds, we make a silent confession before the world. That confession is that the church is not giving enough of itself. It must rely on those on the outside.

Back in January, I had Ty Benbow on my show to talk about abortion. One thing he said was that if every church in America adopted just one child every season of the year, we could end any abortion debate. Just one. Of course, not every family can do that. There are plenty of poor families. There are some who can give more than they are.

This also includes not just money, but time and services. Do you realize that if you give of your time that you are freeing up money that could go to greater causes that we can’t directly intervene in? If you volunteer to do something at your church, that means there’s more that can go somewhere else.

I recently wrote a blog where I mentioned the giving of 10%. I’m not saying the New Testament teaches the tithe. I think it instead teaches that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. Just that should be something to make us think. God loves a cheerful giver. Don’t we all want to be the kind of person that God loves? Then we should consider being cheerful givers.

Yet as someone said who commented, most pastors would be thrilled if their churches would give 10%. Many of them don’t. The poor of course I’m not really speaking about. Those who don’t have any money to give are not obligated to give, although the poor can give service in other ways. What I am contending for is that we can do something more.

Many of us will be tempted to think that a little bit can’t make much of a difference. By itself, one is absolutely right. Yet if everyone gives a little bit, a little bit can become a lot. If your local blood bank has a blood drive, it would be ridiculous and medically dangerous to think that you have to supply blood for everyone in need. It’s not ridiculous when you realize that when many people do that, then many can benefit.

It’s important to note that there are many pastors who have greed. It’s a sin that anyone can fall into. That’s also why I encourage churches to have upfront financial statements so everyone can see where the money is going to. Be aware pastors that you need to encourage giving, but if you overdo it, you will come across as greedy. Be aware also person in the pew that the church has to say it sometime and just because it’s said doesn’t mean greed is involved.

It’s great to see women going on a show wanting to win money for a mission trip. It will be even better when they don’t need to because the church does give enough as it is. Hopefully we can reach a day where the church is better known for generosity than they are for hypocrisy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Church Does Not Exist For You

Why is it that you go to church? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I talked with someone from Ratio Christi about how we can reach our generation for Christ more. What was brought out was that we have more information than ever before, but the problem is the information isn’t being distributed. Most teachers and workers don’t really get to go out into the trenches as much and just do regular evangelism. Why is that?

My thinking on this is that we have too many people in Christianity today who think that the church exists for them. The church is where they go and get their regular spiritual fill-up. They get to hear a good concert, which is more often about getting their emotions to a high, and then get to hear a talk about how they can have better lives by being a Christian and how God loves them and all of it is about them.

How does this work with evangelism? Simple. You are supposed to bring your friend to church and the pastor is supposed to say the magic words to get them to come down the aisle and accept Christ. Never a thought of “We need to equip you so you can do evangelism on your own.” Instead, you just bring them to the pastor and the pastor does your work for you.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t invite people to church. Of course you should. I am saying your work is not just to bring people to church and then keep a seat in the sanctuary warm. You are also not meant to come to church just so you can feel good about yourself. Church is about coming to worship and give of yourself. We come to church more often to receive than to give.

As someone in ministry also, this is something that I know is a problem for many ministries. Since the church knows little about apologetics, apologetics ministries are hard to start. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t support other worthwhile ministries as the church needs more than apologetics, but it is to say that the church doesn’t know about this vital area of Christianity and sadly, their pastors aren’t introducing them to it.

Picture your average service. You go in and when the sermon starts, you hear a passage of Scripture read. You might get a little bit of the background story but then, it jumps straight to application. There is nothing about the historical setting from a greater perspective or about what the passage would have meant to the original audience. It’s all about “What does this mean to me?”

There are rarely questions about “What does this say about the nature of God?” aside from that He loves you. “What does this say about Jesus?” aside from of course, that He loves you. “What did this mean to the children of Israel?” (Why is that part even in the Bible? It’s not about us.) “How do we know that this really happened?”

Why do people not give then? Well they give their regular 10% and then that’s it. Nothing in their minds often about being a part of the greater church as a whole and the Kingdom of God. Nothing about that they might actually need to answer a question one day from someone. Nothing about they might need to do independent Bible study. It’s all about what’s in it for them.

Want a demonstration? Just picture what will happen if you have a movie night at the church where a movie can be shown for free. How many people will show up? Now picture a night where you have a great apologetics speaker coming into town and giving a free talk on the resurrection of Jesus. I can assure you turnout will be much less for that one. (With the exception of apologetics fans in the area who actually do come.)

I wish I knew more of what to do to help this. Sometimes, I do think it will take some persecution to get us to realize what we are here for. I also suspect many Christians will fall away at that point because, I mean, why should they be expected to sacrifice anything? That’s too uncomfortable.

Perhaps it will depend on the pastors since they are put in the position of having to do everything. The pastor can lay out the responsibility of the layman. He can encourage them to be able to be more self-sufficient in their Christian faith in that they can research themselves and ask the questions themselves. (Perhaps that would be a better investment of their time more often than binge watching Netflix.)

If a pastor is worried that he might lose some people, maybe he should. The people who really care the most are the ones who will stay behind and be willing to do the work. It would be better to have a small number who are faithful and ready to do the work than have a large number who are not. I believe the founder of Christianity had the same philosophy.

It is my hopes that we can be a church that teaches, gives, answers, and everything else we need to be doing. Once we understand the role of Christianity overall, we will be better equipped to fulfill our Christian mission. It will require that we move past the idea that the church is for us. We don’t come to church for us. We come for God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 1/7/2017: Ty Benbow

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

January is here. This is a month that many of us will think about the abortion industry. After all, Roe V. Wade was decided this month in 1973 and here we are years ago and the silent holocaust is still going on in America. In January, I tend to devote all of my shows to the topic of abortion. I haven’t always done perfect, but it is the hope.

This month, I also asked around for friends in the area of apologetics specializing in abortion. I found three who were willing to come on. I hope then to introduce you to some new names in this field and new resources that you can use. One guest this month will be someone already well known in the field but for the others, I want to give my friends a chance to shine.

So who’s up first?

Meet Ty Benbow.

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According to his bio:

Ty Benbow is a professor and emerging author originally from Muncie, Indiana.

He graduated with a BA in Psychology from Wabash College in 2008, and later received his M.Div. from Anderson University School of Theology in 2011.

He currently serves in the Church Ministry Department at Warner University in Lake Wales, Florida where he teaches courses on Understanding the Old Testament and Life of Christ.

His debut novel “I’m Not Real” was published by Charisma Media in Lake Mary, Florida. INR was released on January 22nd, 2016, the 43rd anniversary of Roe v Wade.

Ty, his wife Riley, and daughter Berkeley currently reside in Winter Haven, Florida.

Ty has an approach where he seeks to get inside the head of a woman who is seeking an abortion. What is going on? We might be too quick to write someone off like this for negative reasons. Sure. We can all agree that the action is sinful, but we all do things that are wrong and we all think we have good reasons to do those things that are wrong. Ty will help us try to understand what is going on.

And what is the church to do? Ty has a hope that the church will become more proactive in this field. One complaint often given is that the church doesn’t really care about the child so long as the child isn’t aborted. Are we looking for signs of women in our community even who could be considering abortion and how to help them? There are a number of women who go to get abortions who identify as Christians after all.

This will be a serious month no doubt as abortion is a serious issue and since I’m not a specialist in the topic, I’m honored to be joined by people who do focus on that topic. It is my hope that you will be equipped better to talk with the people in your life who are considering abortion or have had one. We can be like Christ for those people who are struggling with the help of these people.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Redeeming Halloween

What do I think of Kim Wier and Pam McCune’s book published by Tyndale House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Halloween can be an odd time of year. A lot of Christians actually really look forward to it. A lot of other ones dread when this event comes around. You can find many houses with decorations all around meant to spook and delight. Others with the lights turned off and wanting to hide more than a nuclear launch site.

For my family, it was never an issue. I went out every year that I could. In fact, I shocked my wife earlier this week by saying I never even went through all of my candy. I’ve never been much of a candy guy. It was more fun just going around in costume. (Either Link from the Legend of Zelda or a ninja were my favorites.) My wife, on the other hand, had it different. Her family for awhile was afraid of pagan connotations. This was a concept that I would not have understood then, but growing up I have seen more and more that Christians can be afraid of anything if you just say “This has pagan origins.”

In Redeeming Halloween, Wier and McCune look at Halloween and how it can be observed by Christians without having to sell out as it were. The book has both history and application. The history was the part I was looking forward to the most and I wish that there had been a little bit more there. Some parts though I am questionable on. It is false indeed that Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. That was actually done in 380 by Theodosius. I also question the idea that Christmas was a date taken from the pagans and that December 25th was the day they celebrated the winter solstice.

Still, there were some interesting things in the history. I find the tale of the origin of the Jack-o-Lantern to be interesting and I have found some independent confirmation that turnips were originally used before pumpkins. I certainly think that was a step in the right direction.

Some of the events for kids could be interesting. I like that many of them centered around history in that Halloween originates around a day to remember the saints who have died before. Many of the activities invite us to think about what it would have been like to have been a Christian when the Roman Empire was opposed to Christianity or to be a Christian in areas today where Christianity is still opposed, such as heavily secular or Muslim countries. This will also get young people interested in history and Christian history as well and get them out of the “me-centered” thinking that we have today. By all means enjoy the candy and such, but also realize there is much to learn about from the world around you and that many Christians care a lot more about other things than “feeling good about themselves.”

As someone who is not a parent, I could not relate to a lot of the parental advice yet, but that doesn’t mean that parents will not. Thus, I’m not the best one to speak on that point. I do think that most parents will certainly find something that their children can enjoy in this book.

The book will be an interesting read if you’re looking for ideas on how to spend the Halloween season. Like I said, I would have liked to have seen more on history, but I’m glad to see it wasn’t entirely ignored. I also appreciate that history came rightly before application. (If only some pastors would learn that lesson!) If you want to know how to spend Halloween, this could be a good book to consider.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pokemon Go and Evangelism

How will you handle kids coming to church? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I happen to be an apologist as readers know, but I also enjoy playing Pokemon. My wife and I are eagerly looking forward to Sun and Moon coming out in November. Not only that, we’ve found some of our neighbors are also devout Christians and play the game. Unfortunately, they’re also moving away soon, but we’ve enjoyed their company for now.

Recently, a new version came out for smart phones called Pokemon Go. This would have been every child’s dream when Pokemon came out years ago. It’s going out into the world and catching Pokemon on an electronic device. What on Earth does this have to do with evangelism?

It has a number of things to do with it. First off, in order to get supplies and a few extra experience points, players have to stop at places called Pokestops. These are well-known locations like libraries and post offices and other landmarks in a town. Oh! Practically every church you come across will also be a Pokestop and you have to get right up next to it in order to get the bonus. Not only that, if you wait just a few minutes, you can get that bonus again.

Second, there are also gyms you can battle at. These are also located at landmarks including, yep, some of the churches. Not every church has a gym, but some do, and players from each of the three teams in the game seek to come and take control of the gyms and that will mean that they are indeed coming to the churches.

To see how this all works, my neighbor and I decided we would go out into town. My wife came along as his wife was working and we went all over town stopping at Pokestops and battling gyms. On the way, we had a number of good conversations and fun times together.

In fact, this Saturday before the podcast, my wife and I are thinking of going out to a park nearby for a Pokemon Go event. Yes. You’re going to have players coming from the Atlanta area all to a park where we will meet each other and interact playing a game. We will be out around noon in warm weather at a park as will many others.

You know parents how you’ve been wanting a reason for your children to get outside? It has come. In fact, your younger children who can’t drive will need you. Take this chance to spend time with your children!

Still, I mainly want to write about churches. What I recommend you do is have someone from your church download the game and look and see. Is your church a Pokestop? If it is, take advantage of this situation. I would like to emphasize some thought over at The Wardrobe Door and some I’ve thought of on my own.

First off, if you have someone at your church who knows Pokemon well, put them to use! Get them out there and have them meeting people that come by. If you want to, set up something outside your church during the week that will indicate your church is a Pokestop and welcome kids to your church.

This could include having bottles of water or small snacks that you can give out to the children. Let them know what kind of church your place is and that will make an impression on the parents. Let them come in and enjoy wi-fi and air conditioning and this can be a good chance to talk to the parents.

Second, allow people to have their events at your church. Host a Pokemon Go event at your church on the weekdays and have kids from all over come by. If you do this, don’t make it a trap by having a sermon preached. Instead, let them come and just enjoy themselves. Try to focus on the parents as well if they stay. If not, let the kids from your church be there who are playing and have them form the friendships that can get the children in the door.

Third, host other kinds of events. Have a tournament around the card games. Have a tournament around the regular games. Be the church that when Sun and Moon comes out, you will be ready.

Fourth, try having some giveaways. Some churches are doing this and you could let people fill out an entry form once a day when they come by for a Pokestop and let them have a chance to win a prize. It doesn’t have to be a big one, but feeling like they won something for going by the church can be an incentive.

In fact, if you want to know if people are coming to the church, just look at some of the material already put out.

 

Not all of these I shared due to language on some, but pay attention. You have people who even can’t stand religion going to a church to collect Pokeballs. If you have an apologist at your church, now is a time to use them when they show up. This will especially also help show your church that Christians don’t cut themselves off from everything. The Gospel is not opposed to fun after all.

I can already anticipate some objections. Some of you will be saying that we don’t need this to do evangelism. That’s true. We don’t, but you know what? We have it. Why not take advantage of it? Why not use it? If this is a way that we can get to spread the Gospel to people who are coming to our church, why not go ahead and do that?

I also hear it being said that the message should be enough to draw people to the church. Yeah. Keep that up. How’s that been working for you? It will be a draw if you’re dealing with people who are Christians who already love the message. You’re not. What you’re dealing with are people who are lost many times and now have a reason to go to church.

Consider raising children. Parents want to raise their children to eat well and study in school. It should be that being healthy and having a successful career is enough of a draw, but it isn’t. Usually, we’ll give incentives and punishments to help children do these tasks until they come to appreciate them on their own. Wait until your children value health or a successful career on their own and you’ll be waiting awhile. Give them incentive and they’ll start doing it.

Some have also complained about dangers of Pokemon Go, such as there are some people hijacking it to rob victims. Yes. Believe it or not, technology can be misused. By that standard, that Bible you have at your church is misused by the cults, so you’d better not use it. Some people are misusing Pokemon Go. You can be the church that uses it well.

Some people are concerned that you will draw them in and then use bait and switch with the Gospel. I have a problem when it comes to many Christian movies in that they think they have to shove the Gospel explicitly down your throats. They don’t. Those of you who care about friendship evangelism should like this idea. Get to know the people as people who come by and give them time. Do encourage them and if you see an opportunity, you can talk about it, but I wouldn’t be confrontational in this case. Just be there and if they have questions, answer them. Let your church be the church that everyone in town is talking about.

Speaking of talking about it, what makes me think this will happen. Look at the above tweets. When was the last time you had people tweeting so much about going to church who likely are not Christians? You want to pass up this opportunity?

Also along those lines, please don’t come up with cheesy catch phrase about Pokemon and turn it into Jesus and please don’t try to come up with a Christian version of the game that you can play. Just use the game as it is because when Christians try to copy things like this, they end up for the most part just looking ridiculous. That turns people away.

Some people think that Pokemon Go is being used as a lure in this case. The point is that Pokemon Go is already a lure. The people are already coming and they can’t just drive by at 45 MPH and get the bonuses. They have to make a deliberate stop. If they’re there, talk to them. Take advantage of it.

There are many people talking about so many events in the world that are important. We are talking about the Dallas shooting and we are talking about the Presidential election, but many of us are talking about Pokemon Go. That last one can greatly be used by evangelism. Take advantage of the opportunity. We finally have people we want to reach coming to church. I can only imagine what the Apostle Paul would do if he found a way to get people to come to church of their own accord. What would he do once they got there?

Also, your young people who don’t think they contribute to the church sometimes? They can have a sense of contribution just by playing a game and just by hanging out with others playing a game. Give them an idea that they are significant. Let them help out. You can have it that the kids talk to the kids while the parents talk to the parents. Use this opportunity to tell them about your church and then when in the church, tell them about Jesus.

As for me and my wife, we’re going to be enjoying our game, but I certainly hope churches use this opportunity. You have children coming to your door. Are you going to drive them away, or are you going to be there waiting for them in preparation for getting them there on Sunday morning to give them the Gospel?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Political Church

What do I think of Jonathan Leeman’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s said that there are two things that should never be talked about and that’s politics and religion. If so, then Jonathan Leeman has stepped into dangerous waters by writing this book. Churches can often have their own share of squabbles and religion can have a bad reputation today with new atheist soundbites running throughout our culture. Now you tie that in with politics, which comes from the word poly, meaning many, and ticks, referring to blood-sucking organisms.

Leeman points out that politics is unavoidable and we all come into the arena of debate with gods. The difference is the Christian comes with a big one and the secularist comes with several little gods that aren’t metaphysical claims and thus pass the muster. It could be then that when we argue on the grounds of appeal to conscience, we’re setting ourselves up for trouble. Whose conscience will win the day? If we say our conscience is tied to our God, then our opinion will be cast aside in the end and the more “objective” person will be the ones whose gods aren’t so readily apparent.

Leeman wants us to see what the making of covenants means for us today and that politics has been with us from the beginning. As soon as you have relationships going on, you have politics. People have to learn to live orderly in a society somehow. Unfortunately, we’ve often gone with a more pragmatic approach instead of an approach rooted in truth.

Leeman also brings this to how it affects our Christian relationships and I think this is the most important part of the book. This gets to the doctrine of forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive and how does that relate to politics? Forgiveness is in fact all about our relationships with one another and much of the material here can be quite convicting, especially if you have a hard time forgiving someone.

The book also comes from an approach that I think is gently Calvinistic and presuppositional, but the good part is if you don’t agree with that perspective, you can still accept the conclusion which is where many of us will end up about God being necessary for the good society. I found myself disagreeing with how Leeman reached some conclusions, but I agreed with the conclusions. I suspect many readers would be in the same boat.

Also, I thought criticisms of the New Perspective on Paul were not that strong. I don’t think they offer anything that would go against justification in the sense that we usually see it. The difference is more about what it means to be justified. I myself lean towards the New Perspective and I did not see the problems that I think Leeman thinks he sees.

Still, this is a good book to read and certainly thorough. It’s difficult to think about how a book could be more thorough on the topic. The experiential aspects are also quite helpful as you can learn to see forgiveness in a whole new light and really think about how you relate to your fellow man.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why They Don’t Go To Church

Why are there people identified as Nones? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife and I had a trip this morning and when I turned the car on, it was on talk radio, which I normally prefer to listen to because I really don’t care for most of the music today. We live in Tennessee and we’re still in the Bible Belt so we heard a conversation about nones and most people calling in to this local show were talking about material that would not have any interest to the nones. The nones are people who when asked to give a religion say none. It does not necessarily mean they are atheists. It just means that they do not choose to identify with any religion and the whole discussion on the show was based on a statement that only 18% of people attend church weekly.

Before too long, callers were calling in to argue over when the Sabbath was and verses were being misapplied left and right. Then we had the caller calling in to talk about salvation being only in Jesus. Okay. I agree with that, but that says squat about the nones. In fact, as I listened, I realized that this was the problem. Imagine going to someone who is a none and telling them salvation is found only in Jesus Christ. They might first wonder what you’re talking about with salvation and then if anything you’ll be told that they’re happy you found something that works for you, but it just doesn’t work for them.

Or picture the lady who called in and wanted to talk about sodomy some and how our nation is under judgment. (I use the term sodomy also because that is what she used.) Do I think homosexual activity is a sin. Yes. But here’s the problem. You go up to someone today who is a younger person and you tell them that homosexual behavior is wrong. Why? If all you have is “The Bible says so” then they will just be “So much more reason to not trust the Bible.” You could also get told about eating shrimp or mixed clothing or something of that sort. (In fact, this lady speaking had no problem with speaking about Old Testament Law and covenants as if there was a one-to-one parallel.)

But what about the Bible? Well if you tell them that the Bible is the Word of God, they’ll want to know why. What reason can you give? God says so? That’s entirely circular. If you point to your personal testimony, well many of the nones will be glad to tell you a personal testimony of how they went to church growing up and it just doesn’t work for them. Outside of the nones, I can show you plenty of Mormons who have a personal testimony. Do you accept their testimony that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God?

The problem is we’re not reaching the nones because they don’t really think they have something that we can provide for them and we have made church one of the last places that they want to go to. Many of you might be familiar with the work of Michael Patton from Credo House. He wound up getting addicted to pain killers and went to rehab and found that church would be a lot better if it was like that. People were open and honest and able to admit their failures. No one would bother trying to look good around everyone else because hey, if you’re in rehab, you already have some issues and you know it’s a safe place. Why don’t they do that in church?

Because church is not a safe place and so many Christians seem to think that if they are true Christians, they will show they do not have any major problems in their lives.

Church is also seen as a place that’s really pretty boring, and how many of us can relate. How many times is it that nagging can be called preaching? Why is it that the word “preach” has such a negative connotation to it? Frankly, if we think about something that we would want to do for entertainment, most of us would not go and sit down and listen to somebody speak for about half an hour. It’s just not something that we do. Add in especially that you don’t want to go and hear someone talk about how you’re supposedly doing everything wrong in life. Most sermons you hear at church are things you’ve also heard before if you grew up in the church. Church becomes a habit or a routine and you go mainly because some people are there that you like hanging out with.

Let’s also hit the big one. The question of truth is no longer discussed. Christianity has been reduced to an ethical system, as if Jesus just came to show us how to love one another and that was it, which entirely misses the point of the cross. Oh wait. The cross was just so we could go to Heaven when we die, which entirely bypasses any idea of “What am I supposed to do in the meantime?” We act as if the Christian life is just being a good person. You don’t need Christianity for that. The Greek and Roman teachers of the time of Jesus could have taught you how to live a life of virtue. Was Jesus highly advanced in His teaching? Absolutely, but most Romans, Greeks, and Jews were not going around in the first century struggling with an internal sin problem. They knew they weren’t perfect, but they had systems set in place already.

Absent from the church is any notion that Christianity is, you know, true. It’s completely foreign to our thinking to consider that we believe that a man came who was fully God in nature, lived among us and taught the Kingdom of God, died on a cross, and then rose again in a new and glorified body. We somehow forget that this is not just Star Wars happening long long ago in a galaxy far far away. We claim that these are events of history, and yet we have no reason normally for why we say that they are history beyond “The Bible says so” and when we got to why the Bible should be taken seriously, there is nothing. In fact, we seem to treat it like a virtue if we believe for no reason. After all, that is what faith really is.

Well no, that’s not what faith is. Faith is more trust in that which has been shown to be reliable. Believing for the sake of believing is not a virtue. It would not be a virtue to marry someone without having any reason for thinking they’re marriage material. It would not be a virtue to hire someone to watch your kids without any reason to think that they’re competent. It would not be virtue to send your child to a college without any reason to think that it’s a good college for them. Yet here we take an even more important decision, such as our eternal reality and say “But in this case, it is a virtue.”

Believe it or not, the nones don’t want to check their brains at the door and they think they have to. They think that if you are going to be a Christian, it means you have to have a prudish attitude towards sexual matters just because the Bible says so. It means that you have to be someone who opposes science because the Bible says so. It means you are a closed-minded bigot because the Bible says you have to be right. Most of them already believe it makes perfect sense to remove the gender requirement for marriage and since many supports the transgender movement, they really don’t even place much stock in gender anyway. Why should they take you seriously?

And this is where the church has failed. We have not kept up our intellectual standards. We have in fact fallen into the individualism of our culture and we are doing evangelism in the 21st century as if we were living in the 1950’s where all you had to do was go and say what the Bible said and speak about the love of God and give your personal testimony and that was enough. It’s not. I’d say they treat the Bible about as seriously as a newspaper, but most of them would trust a newspaper more. Why should they believe the Bible? Haven’t you read the Wikipedia entry on the Bible?

When we forsook our intellectual convictions, we ultimately turned the church into a self-help therapy session. In fact, listen to a lot of Contemporary Christian music today. A lot of it is therapy. It’s meant to build us up and help us feel better about ourselves instead of inviting us into the grandeur of God. This is just as much our individualism. Now of course the Bible itself says radical things about who we are in Christ, but the focus is the in Christ. The focus is not us. If I want to feel better about myself, I can just go to a therapist today. I don’t need to go to church.

This is also why the Sabbath debate was so concerning to hear. The nones do not care about when we observe the Sabbath. They do not care about it any more than we care about finer points of Muslim doctrine. If we want to look at how salvation is found in Christ, the nones don’t care about that either. They don’t see any need for salvation because hey, what kind of God would judge you so much? Isn’t God love? Most people really have no idea what to do with these people because they have not studied the issues and have no idea how they can reach people on these kinds of issues.

Most of us also are not doing the work. I have written about how we have an escapist mentality with my main example being a woman in a small group who said “I’m saved and my children are saved so let’s just wait for Jesus to come.” Yes. That is entirely what the Great Commission is all about. Get yourself and those you love taken care of and who cares about the rest of the world? Note also the emphasis on getting saved. The emphasis is on God forgiving you. The emphasis is not on spreading the message of the Kingdom of God and proclaiming that Jesus is Lord.

We all realize that if we want to witness to people in another culture, we need to learn the language and customs and such of that culture so we can speak to them. What we have not realized is our neighbor is often that other culture. You have totally different worldviews residing here in America. How are you going to do that evangelism? You might actually have to learn what your neighbor believes and why they do. Believe it or not, you could also bear to learn what you believe and why you do. Have you ever thought about why you believe what you believe? If you haven’t taken the time to think about why you believe what you believe, why should anyone else take such time?

The nones are a sign that we have failed in our intellectual mission in the West. We have abandoned the rich heritage of the church before us and come up with a church that is all about me and does not provide anything the nones think that they need. They have better things to do on a Sunday morning and throughout the week than waste time in their eyes on religion. They are good people in their eyes and need nothing more. If the church wants to reach the nones, the church will have to learn to be the church. We must return to our intellectual heritage. This does not mean we forsake our ethical principles, but we don’t have them floating in air. We back them with why we believe this and make our stand.

The Kingdom of God requires it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters