Thursday, 26 May 2022

Out of This World?


Today – Thursday 26 May 2022 – is Ascension Day. Below is a lightly-edited version of a piece I wrote years back which gets an occasional airing.


When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Luke 24:50–53


Christ’s ascension sometimes gets bundled with his resurrection rather than treated as an event in its own right. In fact, as the rhythm of the church’s calendar reminds us, they were separated by forty days. And it stands as significant, with Jesus’ ascension opening up a new era in God’s dealings with the world and with his people in the world.


At the very least, it means Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God, as Peter explains (Acts 2:33–36; 5:31), showing he is less interested in the ‘up-down’ mechanics of the event than he is with the status of his Lord – the ascension confirming him as the king, the fulfilment of God’s centuries-old promises to David.


Beyond this, lose the ascension and we lose the heavenly ministry of Jesus as our High Priest, his very presence with God providing intercession on our behalf, his finished work requiring no repetition or extension of any kind. Lose the ascension and we risk losing the comfort of hope – that one day our weak bodies will be like his glorious body, that the same Jesus who ascended will return as judge and king. And as a human being too – for he did not slip off his humanity to get on with the task of being the exalted Son of God, but has taken it into the very presence of God, wedding us to him for ever, reminding us once again of God’s commitment to restore us and his creation.


Meanwhile, the ascension does not mark the end of his work on earth, but the continuation of it through the church – a mission which can be carried out with confidence because of the position our master now occupies, with all places subject to his rule and all people subject to his oversight – including the places we inhabit and the people we encounter, even today.


As the ascended Lord, he lays claim not just to the church but to all realms of life. And his heavenly location redraws how we think about our ‘location’ – how we live in our earthly ‘spaces’ given the one from whom we take our bearing. Our lives are oriented around the reality of the risen and ascended Christ, his heavenly lordship investing today’s even apparently menial tasks with eternal significance.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Talking Jesus Report 2022


The ‘Talking Jesus’ report for 2022 has recently been published.


Borne out of a partnership between Alpha, the Evangelical Alliance, HOPE Together, the Luis Palau Association, and Kingsgate Community Church, it seeks to show ‘the state of faith in the UK, how people come to faith in Jesus and how we, as the church, can talk about Jesus more effectively with our friends and in our community’.


Further information is available from here, the report is available to download from here, and a video of the launch is available here.

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society 22, 1 (March 2022)


The latest issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society has been posted online with the below articles (with the first few paragraphs of the pieces, or abstracts where available). The individual essays are available from here, and the issue as a whole is available as a pdf here.


Scott M. Gibson

Preaching Plus

There might be variations of homiletical math. In my teaching of Haddon Robinson’s philosophy of preaching I instruct my students that to get the idea of a passage one uses the following homiletical math formula: S + C = I. That is, subject question plus the complement answer equals the exegetical idea. But it strikes me that we can apply homiletical math to other areas of preaching. We could call this formula “preaching plus.” That is, preaching can be considered as an addition to a given area of study. For example, preaching plus history directs us to discover how and if preaching has had an impact in historical development in any culture or context. Preaching plus psychology may help us to discover how preaching intersects with the field of psychology. Further examples may come to your mind. But the point here is to help us to see that the intersection of preaching with other fields and situations or contexts is far-reaching.


Scott M. Gibson and Gregory K. Hollifield

Wanted: Catfish for Our Think Tank

What is needed are holy healthy places for thinking, interaction, and engagement without intellectual prejudice or divisiveness. We need think tanks more than we need labs. Our Evangelical Homiletics Society is not so much a lab as it is a think tank. A think tank consists of a body of experts who share ideas and advice to advance a chosen field of research and application. Unlike medical labs, think tanks are messy places. Not all ideas gain traction there. Advice can come off as criticism. Sacred cows get slaughtered. Presuppositions are called into question. Novelty is neither embraced for novelty’s sake nor rejected on the same grounds. Catfish swim freely in healthy think tanks. By their presence, resistance, and “convince me” attitudes, they keep their colleagues’ minds from growing soft and mushy.


Matthew D. Kim

Preaching to People in Pain

For this conference, Jesse Nelson asked me to speak about a new publication, Preaching to People in Pain. This book released in May of 2021 with Baker Academic. It’s a book that has long been on my heart as someone who has pastored people who are broken and hurting. How many of you have broken and hurting people in your churches today? I can assure you that all of us do. I remember pitching the book idea to Baker initially proposing the title of Pain-Full Preaching: Sharing Our Suffering in Sermons. For whatever reason, the marketing team relayed back that Pain-Full Preaching may not sell so why don’t we title it Preaching to People in Pain: How Suffering Can Shape Your Sermons and Connect with Your Congregation. Steve Norman is a pastor who has been writing thoughtfully about preaching. In his new book, The Preacher as Sermon, published by Preaching Today, he shares a mantra for his ministry which is this: “Never underestimate the pain in the room.” This evening I don’t want to underestimate your pain or the possible pains that you’ve been going through over the past two years or more. They’ve been a very difficult two years for many of us. Ministry has not looked the same for any of us.


Ken Langley

Preaching Hope and Lament from the Psalms

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast with in me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan . . . Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” (Psalm 42:5-7). Hope and lament. Usually, the order is reversed, as in Psalm 130: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD,” verse 1. Verse 7: “O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.” Lament and hope. In psalm after psalm we find this pattern: the petitioner begins: “How many are my foes! How long will you hide your face from me? Why do you stand afar off? God, I don’t understand, I don’t like, and I’m not about to acquiesce to this current state of illness, distress, injustice, persecution, danger, loss. But—(so much Gospel in that little word!)—I trust you. I know you are faithful to your promises. I wait in hope for the LORD, he is my help and shield. I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Be strong and take heart all you who hope in the LORD. Lament and hope.


Ezekiel Ajibade

The Culture of Note-Taking and Effective Sermonic Technique

Sermon note-taking has long been practiced in various “church cultures,” and some may wonder about the future of the practice. Challenges to note-taking include secondary orality, the emergence of the digitoral generation, and the technologization of the world. This paper, engages with homiletics, systematic theology, communication studies, and discipleship studies to demonstrate the relevance of note-taking for enhancing listener engagement during the sermon. First, ,this paper will suggest a biblical and theological premise for note-taking. Second, it will investigate the relationship of note-taking to good listening and journaling. Third, it will describe methods of effective note-taking for both oral and digitoral sermon hearers. Fourth, it will discuss the criticism that note-taking is a distraction to the listeners. This paper will show that note-taking is still practiced by church-goers, and that while it should be encouraged, it should not be forced on worshippers in any way.


Jesse Nelson

Sermon: The Christian’s Hope


Book Reviews

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Lausanne Global Analysis 11, 3 (May 2022)


The latest issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is available online from here, including pdfs of individual articles as below.


Kaiky Fernandez and Pedro Dulci

Theological Education for Digital Natives: A Case Study of the Invisible College


Sherman Lau

Why Canada’s Multicultural Policy Falls Short of the Gospel Ideal: Moving Toward Involvement, Empathy, and Commonness


Cynthia Stephen

A Historical View of the Christian Minority in India: Rethinking Christian Witness in a BJP-Run Nation


Babatomiwa M. Owojaiye

Christian Persecution in Nigeria: A Biblical Response to an Insensitive Government

Monday, 16 May 2022

Stewardship on How Married Couples Make Decisions about Charitable Giving


The Christian charity Stewardship recently conducted a survey on how married couples make decisions about charitable giving.


They asked married couples about ‘how they manage their giving together, who they choose to give to and the challenges and opportunities they face when making giving decisions’.


750 married individuals took part in the survey, the majority of whom would define themselves as evangelical Christians.


The full report is available in exchange for an email address here.


The main findings are as follows:


3 out of 4 couples said they make giving decisions together

Most married couples choose to make giving decisions together with just 1 out of 4 respondents reporting that decisions are made by one spouse.


94% of couples agree with their spouse on how much they should give

Only 2% of couples would state that they ‘rarely agree’ on this subject. Money decisions are often considered a divisive issue among couples but giving to charity seems to bring couples together.


68% of respondents said that they thought their giving is set at the right amount

31% of respondents said that they would like to be giving more, with just 1% stating that they would like to be giving less than they do currently.


93% of married couples give to their local church

The most popular type of charitable cause that our survey respondents support is the ‘Local Church’ (694 out of 750 respondents). This is closely followed by ‘International Aid’ and ‘Global Mission’ causes.


Only 1 out of 10 couples said that they have a pre-agreed threshold amount for giving

Of this number, 38% of survey participants said they would discuss with their spouse any donation amount over £50.


60% of respondents said that they are giving more than 10% of their total household income

A further 37% of participants said they give between 1–10% of their income. These figures are above standard UK charitable giving statistics, where the average monthly donation in 2021 was reported to be £411.


As a follow up, Stewardship have also produced a ‘guide to giving for married couples’, which is available in exchange for an email address here.


The four principles outlined are these:


1. Appreciate that you are different

2. Agree on unity and mutual support

3. Pray and bring God into this part of your marriage

4. Take time to talk through the crucial questions

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Evangelical Review of Theology 46, 2 (May 2022)


The latest Evangelical Review of Theology, published by The World Evangelical Alliance, is now online and available in its entirety as a pdf here.


Introduction


Johannes Reimer

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian Evangelicals

As war rages in Ukraine, hostility also divides evangelical Christians in neighbouring countries. This article analyses the situation and calls for a reaffirmation of Christian mission over against forms of nationalism that can undermine our Christian allegiance.


Joseph Bosco Bangura

Temne Dream Culture and Charismatic Churches in Sierra Leone: Probing the Limits of Contextualization

Many emphasize that Christian ministries in Africa need to engage meaningfully with Africans’ sensitivity to the spirit world. But that engagement also presents risks of syncretism or departing from biblical truth. This case study, full of historical detail and biblical insight, examines how some Charismatic ministries in Sierra Leone are accommodating traditional views of dreams, along with the resulting opportunities and pitfalls.


Bryan M. Christman

Lewis and Kierkegaard as Missionaries to Post-Christian Pagans

C.S. Lewis and Søren Kierkegaard, despite their very different cultural circumstances and approaches to apologetics, shared notable similarities in their rhetorical and literary styles. This article unearths those similarities and suggests how we can follow their example in making the gospel relevant to post-Christian cultures.


Thomas K. Johnson

Does the Word of God Change the World? From Martin Luther to the 69 Theses of Thomas Schirrmacher

Everyone has heard of Luther’s 95 Theses, but hardly anyone reads them. Few have read WEA Secretary General Thomas Schirrmacher’s 69 Theses on world mission, but they should. This article explains the impact of Luther's theses and the potential impact of Schirrmacher’s.


Andrew Messmer

The Diaduoin: How John’s Gospel Complements Mark

Why is John’s Gospel so different from the Synoptics? Andrew Messmer provides a strong argument for the possibility that John wrote his Gospel to complement Mark’s Gospel through this detailed analysis of how the two books relate to each other.


Scott Cunningham

Innovation in Seminary Theological Education: An Overview of Contributing Forces

This article examines in detail, based on extensive research by the Overseas Council, how theological education can innovate to serve the Majority World more effectively – particularly with regard to increasing access, achieving greater relevance in countries where few Christian leaders have seminary training, and maintaining financial sustainability.


Ajith Fernando

Confronting Lying Biblically in Honour- and Shame-Oriented Cultures

Various forms of lying are ubiquitous even amongst Christians, harming our integrity and witness. This article identifies reasons why lies are so common and acceptable and deploys biblical truth to call all of us to a higher standard.


Esa J. Autero

Seeing the New Testament through Asian Eyes

How can Majority World Christian leaders apply the Bible to their cultural settings if their seminary textbooks are all Western-focused? The newly released An Asian Introduction to the New Testament offers a thoroughly Asian way of reading and applying the Bible, as one of the book’s contributors explains in this article.


Book Reviews

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Credo 12, 1 (2022) on Plato


The current issue of Credo is available, this one devoted to the question: ‘What does Plato have to do with Jesus?’


Here’s the blurb:


‘We live in a day when goodness, truth, and beauty exist in the eye of the beholder alone, mere social constructs we name (Nominalism). As a result, skepticism reigns as society questions whether reality even exists beyond the material realm, doubting the existence of the soul and a Creator as the first principle of the cosmos. Naturally, purpose in this world (final causality) is thrown into doubt as we are ever so content to entertain ourselves with shadows of our own invention in the darkness of the cave. Yet glimmers of hope shine bright on the horizon as Christians from all traditions resurrect Plato and invite him to enter the darkness of our cave to tell us about the radiance of the sun outside, a reality that is… real. More exciting still, Christians are discovering that a long tradition before them – from Augustine to C.S. Lewis – considered themselves Christian Platonists. Of course, they were prudent, rejecting those components of Platonism incompatible with Christianity. Yet they were also strategic, utilizing those components that establish a philosophy capable of defending Christianity’s belief in an eternal, unchanging first cause whose goodness, truth, and beauty explain reality and give this life true meaning and purpose. The authors of this issue ask how God in his providence used Plato to prepare the way for the full revelation of his Savior.’


Individual articles, along with interviews and book reviews, are available to read from here.