Archive for the 'Desperate Suggestions' Category

Is theology arrogance?

“Doing theology” often implies that we understand God better than the apostles or their disciples, and Jesus would really have benefited from a background in textual criticism. But has everything orthodox already been taught? (more…)

Revival is normal

If we want revival, the first requirement is to admit that we need revival. That we need more than we have now. Watchman Nee called it the Normal Christian Life. Revival is when people who have been experiencing the average Christian life or the typical Christian life begin to experience the normal Christian life. (more…)

A thermometer does not improve your comfort

Changing your church’s spiritual temperature to match the world outside doesn’t make visitors any more comfortable than changing your church’s thermostat to match the weather outside.


“The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

False conversion

Baptists usually believe in eternal security or persistence of the saints. That is, once you are saved, you’re always saved. Yet a Baptist prison chaplain says that he finds the same percentage of Baptists in jail as out of jail. Same percentage of Methodists, same percentage of Catholics.

So what’s the problem? A Baptist preacher once said, “We’ve spent too many years telling people they can never lose what they never had.”
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You paid too much for your salvation

If your grace is cheap, who paid for it? And how much did they pay? Everything that Jesus offers, he paid for with his life. If your salvation is cheap and ineffective, maybe you didn’t get it from him.

Getting used to the taste of sea water

Surely the reason we don’t think we need an expensive savior is because we don’t think we are in any danger. We have gotten used to floors that are constantly wet, water seeping through cracks in the walls, bulkheads bowing inward, strange rumblings below deck, and the taste of sea water. We can’t admit our need because it would cost us too much to fix it. Because the alternative is inconceivable. Or uncomfortable.

Cheap grace is like cheap termite control

To me, cheap grace doesn’t mean that it didn’t cost much, so much as it isn’t worth much. Still, sometimes there is a connection. The price of a car repair, or a surgical operation, is affected by how deep into the inner workings the professional will have to go. If you don’t believe you have a deep problem, or if you believe it’s already been fixed, you won’t pay the price needed to fix it. If your problem is termites and you won’t fix it, eventually you won’t have a house. If your problem is spiritual, you can patch over the holes, keep the telltale sawdust swept away, and ignore the swarms each spring. But in the end you’ll have no place to seek refuge from reality.

Redemption and lift, reconsidered

After reading my post Redemption and lift,
Tim McIntosh asked:

Has there ever been any empirical evidence that “redemption and lift” is a reality? There are many examples of poor sectors of countries that have had genuine revivals but no lift. The redemption and lift philosophy has been used to reject the idea of getting involved in holistic ministry.

Then what a bad use of the redemption and lift philosophy: to say that salvation has economic implications so we shouldn’t encourage them. That is, to paraphrase William Carey‘s critics, “If God wants to improve crop yields or reduce child abuse, he will do it without your help or ours.” If the Gospel affects the whole person, what kind of ministry is there besides holistic?

It turns out that in Donald McGavran’s Understanding Church Growth, one of the main points which he made in his chapter “Halting Due to Redemption and Lift” was negative, not positive: when poor people respond to the witness of the Gospel, they often want to leave the neighborhood, which leaves the neighborhood without their witness to the Gospel.

So I’m applying the term differently than McGavran did. However, you’re applying the term differently than I did. Notice that the examples I gave were on a personal/family level. When one man has more disposable income because he stops drinking, that doesn’t mean his whole community has more disposable income. However, if enough people stop drinking, some bars will go out of business, which affects the whole community. That happened in the 1905 Welsh Revival, documented by J. Edwin Orr.

Just a thought: you referred to “sectors of countries” but do the words “sector” or “country” (in our sense of those words) even appear in the New Testament mandates? The Gospel can transform sectors and countries, but it does that by transforming individuals, households, and people groups: all words which do appear in the New Testament mandates.

However, in the same way that lift can be promoted by redemption, lift can be thwarted by lack of redemption. If a “holistic ministry” focuses on fighting alcoholism among people who enjoy being drunk, that ministry is going to have some problems.