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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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.

A million good atheists in New York City?

CNN reports that a coalition of non-religious organizations is running a atheist ad campaign in New York city subways, “designed to raise awareness about people who don’t believe in a god.”

The advertisements ask the question, written simply over an image of a blue sky with wispy white clouds: “A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?”

The ads are actually misleading. That 2008 survey cited by the sponsors, American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population, didn’t ask people if they were good. The word “good” doesn’t even appear in the report. It just asked about religious affiliation. True, the 15% who said they had no religious affiliation weren’t saying they were Christians who hadn’t found a good church, but they weren’t saying they were atheists either. Only 7% said they were atheists.

The most startling claim, of course, is that New York City has a million good people, period. I mean, I think the Chasidic Jews only estimate a dozen or two really good people worldwide. Maybe good people are naturally attracted to New York City. Still, if I were you, I would keep alert on the subway, and lock  my car.

But the ads ask a good question, even if they begin with an inaccurate statement. That is, they ask, “Are you good?” I suspect that, if they think about it, that question will make a lot of New Yorkers a little uncomfortable. I know it did that for me. And if the answer is no, there are organizations in New York City that can help. But I don’t think they’re atheist organizations.

Extreme repentance

The adjective extreme has become popular in recent years. People are proud of being extreme. They engage in extreme sports, listen to extreme music, and watch “Extreme Makeover.” Church youth groups even called themselves “Generation X-Treme,” which gives you an idea of how long the word has been popular in popular culture, since the oldest examples of Generation X are now over 40.

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