Evangelicalism

Steve Clifford responds to Steve Chalke

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Steve [Chalke's] approach to biblical interpretation allows for a god in the likeness of 21st century Western-European mindsets. His call for "Christ-like inclusion" is not radical enough in its inclusiveness. We all come to the gospel in our brokenness, with an attachment to things, self-centeredness, addictions, fears and pride. We all need a saviour in every area of our lives, including our sexuality. We all live with pain. The radical inclusiveness of the gospel means we are all welcomed. In a wonderful grace-filled process we find repentance and forgiveness and Christ commits himself through the work of the Holy Spirit to bring transformation to our lives - a life-long process. 

Steve Clifford
Evangelical Alliance

more . . . 

Biblically faithful, gospel centred, graced filled. Well done Steve Clifford.

Defending the gospel of grace and truth

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Gary Lockyer was the senior pastor at Lilydale Baptist (1988-2002). This is an full version of his comment posted today providing background to the turmoil at his former church.

Steve, I was the Senior Pastor of the Lilydale Baptist Church for 14 years. It had already grown out of its ancient (1881?) but very small building and was meeting in the Senior Citizens Centre. In 1991 we moved into the first stage of the new building and then into the larger auditorium in around 1995.

My theological stance? Conservative Reformed. My personal motto has always been the old Youth for Christ one – “Anchored to the Rock; Geared for the times.”

The Church grew steadily (as you indicated) across all the age groups through those years. In 1996, we presented a submission to the Baptist Union of Victoria (BUV) “Ordination of Homosexuals” debacle that strongly affirmed ministry and welcome to homosexuals, but no unrepentant practising homosexuals in membership or leadership.

I recall that our submission was passed at a well-attended Church Meeting without a dissenting voice or vote. At the time, we had a number of refugees from the Uniting Church with us; the last thing they needed was the fear that their experience would be repeated! How quickly things have changed, with changes in both congregational and pastoral leadership.

I mentioned “debacle” with regard to the 1996 BUV Assembly that ruled out Ordination for a practising homosexual. I was one of the few who pointed out the inadequacy of any motion only based on the “opinion of the Churches” (subject to change) rather than based on a conviction that homosexual practice was a sin according to the Scriptures.

I stressed the foolishness of “locking the front door” of Ordination (a questionable practice anyway) while pointing out that the “back door” was standing unguarded; a Church could call an unordained practising homosexual as a Pastor. The only “discipline” if this was to happen? The BUV would advise that he / she could not be ordained! That’s a forceful blow with a limp lettuce leaf!

With a few others, an attempt was made that night to add the words “or approve of homosexual practice” as a bar to ordination. The amendment was overwhelmingly lost. Worse, we were laughed at openly in the Assembly by some as we attempted to point out the futility of forbidding the practise of homosexuality while allowing its advocacy. What is playing out now at Lilydale is the logical and totally predictable result of that horror of an Assembly.

I am not proud of it – more greatly embarrassed! (and I’ve had my own valley to navigate in the mean time) – but so disorienting was the experience that night that I have never been at a BUV Assembly since.

My heart breaks for the people at Liydale and what they are going through. And I’m not feeling too good about seeing a Church that I served with commitment in this situation. Buy now it should have been established as a strong and vital regional Church with a clear witness to the faith once delivered. May God grant a miracle to see it still get there.

Gary

Here's my reply to Gary.

Gary

Thank you for your well written and godly response to the situation at Lilydale Baptist.

I googled you and found your response to Pastor Danny Nalliah's shameful comments following the Black Saturday bush fires which claimed the lives of 173 Australians.

Again, a well written and godly response.

Nice to see you defending the gospel of grace against attacks from the religious left, and the religious right!

Blessings

Steve

Christianity surges in Indonesia

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Time Magazine reports:

A religious revolution is transforming Indonesia. Part of the spiritual blossoming entails Muslims embracing a more conservative form of faith, mirroring global trends that have meant a proliferation of headscarves and beards in modern Islamic capitals. More surprising, though, is the boom in Christianity — officially Indonesia's second largest faith and a growing force throughout Asia. Indeed, the number of Asian Christian faithful exploded to 351 million adherents in 2005, up from 101 million in 1970.

  more. . .

Thanks to reader Bryan.

The state of church planting in Australia

iStock_000005960119XSmall.jpg Last week in Sydney I was asked for my impressions of the state of church planting in Australia.

Here are a few thoughts on how the various overlapping groups are doing.

Liberal It was all over at least a generation ago. Attendances have halved in that time. The average age is over sixty. Churches are being closed down, not planted.

In the pursuit of "relevance" they have abandoned the truth of the gospel.

The clergy and the theological colleges have led the charge into oblivion. Every time a church folds they win the lottery through the sale of assets. This sorry tale could go on for a very long time.

Pentecostal The most prolific church planting movement of the last century. An amazing achievement of faith and dedication. The momentum will continue for decades. If history repeats itself (Quakers, Methodists, Baptists) there will be a Pentecostal Prime Minister within a generation or two.

Contemporary Pentecostalism is shifting to the cultural mainstream. Its greatest challenge is now its own success. Typically at this stage of development a movement becomes more conservative, its leaders more "professional" and less interested in the risky business of church planting.

Evangelical Evangelicals are holding their own numerically but falling behind in reaching a growing population. Without leadership, evangelical denominations find it difficult to turn good intentions into action. Lacking a strong centre, they tend to fall prey to other agendas.

Emerging The Emerging church has done everyone a favour in shaking our paradigms of church and ministry. Unfortunately the use of the term "missional" seems to be inversely related to new disciples being made. I've been saying it for three years now: I'm just not hearing any accounts of people coming to faith in Christ, new disciples made and churches multiplied out of the "Emerging church." Please prove me wrong.

Reformed Here's a trend I didn't predict. An assortment of Calvinists are abuzz with church planting. It's a national and international trend—at least in the West.

Why? They have made an innovative return to tradition. They have refused to adapt the gospel, but they have adapted their methods.

Still a long way to go before they become a multiplying global missionary movement.

Mega Multi-site is the preferred method of expansion of the megachurch—one church in many locations. In the best examples, new congregations quickly grow to maturity and become reproducing hubs. In the worst examples they become dependent and infertile offspring.

"Parachurch" Still leading the way in doing evangelism and making disciples. Rightfully wary of becoming a church. Wrongfully wary of planting churches.

Fringe A handful of innovative pioneers are applying the lessons of church planting movements in the developing world. It's early days, but they're sharing the gospel and making disciples with a view to forming churches in the world of the new believers.

They have a strong evangelical faith, a openness to the work of the Holy Spirit and a flexibility in methods. The goal is not a certain size of church but discipleship that results in multiplication. Keep watching this space.

NonEuropean Christianity is most vibrant outside the Western world. In the West the church may be in decline, but the good news is your children and grandchildren will be reached by Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, Korean and Nigerian missionaries.

A new kind of gospel?

christianity-today-graphic-tm.jpg Dynamic movements are committed to a cause. But what if you're not sure what that cause is any more?

Tim Keller writes:

A generation ago, it would have been hard to imagine evangelicals unable to agree on what the simple gospel is: 1) God made you and you must have a relationship with him, 2) but your sin separates you from God. 3) Jesus, God's Son took the punishment your sins deserved. 4)If you repent for your sins and trust in his work for your salvation, you will be forgiven, justified and accepted freely by grace, and indwelled with his Spirit until you die and go to heaven.

But many today challenge this way of expressing the gospel.

In A New Kind of Christian Brian McLaren's character Neo says he doesn't "think most Christians have any idea of what the gospel really is." When his interlocutor responds that he thought the gospel was "accepting Christ as your personal savior and justification by faith not works based on the finished work of Christ on the cross" Neo responds, "Yes, that's exactly what most modern Christians would say". reduc[ing] the gospel to modern dimensions, laws, steps, simple diagrams, complete with a sales close." When pressed on what the gospel is, Neo insists that it can't be reduced to a formula, other than the one Jesus used, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." He then quickly adds that we shouldn't use that short-hand either, since "everything is contextual' and the term "kingdom" would be opaque to many people today.

Read Tim Keller's response to this postmodern confusion regarding the gospel.

Students who changed the world

J Edwin OrrFollowing up on my Missionaries to Marxists: the Rise and Fall of SCM, here's an article by one of the great historians of revival movements, Dr J Edwin Orr.

Read it and ask yourself, “Why can't this happen again?”

Can you imagine...

one third of a university's student body coming to Christ in a single year?

50 percent of those new believers going into full-time Christian work following graduation?

more than 20,000 students eventually serving Christ overseas due to the influence of a few of these students? Imagine it, because it all happened!

It began in the early 1800s at schools like Amherst, Dartmouth, Princeton, Williams, and Yale where up to half the students turned to Christ. By 1835, 1,500 students had committed their lives to Christ in 36 colleges. Impressive statistics...especially when you realize that in those days student bodies numbered only 100 to 250. Similar results continued to be seen from one generation of students to the next. In 1853, 11 New England colleges with a total enrollment of 2,163 reported that there were 745 active Christians on campus. Of this number, 343 planned to go into the ministry.

Then in the 1880s, an unprecedented missionary enterprise known as the Student Volunteer Movement came into being. “The Evangelization of the World in This Generation” became its rallying cry. This spirit was evidenced in the movement's results - more than 20,000 serving overseas mission fields in half a century.

To read on, download: Why Campus Revivals Spark Missionary Advance by J Edwin Orr

Students who changed the world

J Edwin OrrFollowing up on my Missionaries to Marxists: the Rise and Fall of SCM, here's an article by one of the great historians of revival movements, Dr J Edwin Orr.

Read it and ask yourself, “Why can't this happen again?”

Can you imagine...

one third of a university's student body coming to Christ in a single year?

50 percent of those new believers going into full-time Christian work following graduation?

more than 20,000 students eventually serving Christ overseas due to the influence of a few of these students? Imagine it, because it all happened!

It began in the early 1800s at schools like Amherst, Dartmouth, Princeton, Williams, and Yale where up to half the students turned to Christ. By 1835, 1,500 students had committed their lives to Christ in 36 colleges. Impressive statistics...especially when you realize that in those days student bodies numbered only 100 to 250. Similar results continued to be seen from one generation of students to the next. In 1853, 11 New England colleges with a total enrollment of 2,163 reported that there were 745 active Christians on campus. Of this number, 343 planned to go into the ministry.

Then in the 1880s, an unprecedented missionary enterprise known as the Student Volunteer Movement came into being. “The Evangelization of the World in This Generation” became its rallying cry. This spirit was evidenced in the movement's results - more than 20,000 serving overseas mission fields in half a century.

To read on, download: Why Campus Revivals Spark Missionary Advance by J Edwin Orr