Effective evangelism is measured not by individual responses, but by the clarity and accuracy of the message proclaimed. TWEET Whether in a large gathering or from one soul to another, a church functioning at maximum evangelistic capacity will saturate its areas of influence with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If your church ceased to exist, what evangelistic impact would be lost?
Evangelism should be instinctive to the church, a reflex that weaves its way in and through everything else it does together. TWEET Exhorting the church to evangelize should be as necessary as exhorting a newborn to cry; it should take effort to silence.
Far too often, the church functions as sheep in wolves clothing, hiding its identity and hoping to avoid detection. Scripture, however, knows nothing of an incognito Christian. Paul rather, calls believers ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor 5:20). An ambassador speaks the message they were given with the authority and conviction of the one who sends them.
As the church, the bride of Christ, our proclamation of the gospel must come with boldness. We look for points of intersection with the unbelieving world, not points of unification. As the church of Jesus Christ, our role is to carry the gospel so that salt and light collide with decay and darkness.
If the church is to function as the gospel witness to the nations, it must be vocal on an individual level. TWEET The church that is most effective in spreading the light of the gospel will be most active in the shadows, faithfully and boldly proclaiming the gospel to every unbeliever its members know. When believers are faithful to evangelize in the routine of life, they more naturally gather together in evangelistic efforts that flow beyond their immediate context and into the world.
The gauge of a church’s evangelistic effectiveness is obedience on an individual level. The gospel commission is a call for individual disciples to engage individual sinners. The response of sinners is the work of the Spirit, not the result of our actions. Instead of gauging effectiveness by the response, gauge it by faithfulness to Christ’s commission and accuracy of the message.
So, what are the hallmarks of a church functioning at maximum evangelistic capacity? How can the church individually and collectively raise its evangelistic fervor? Here are a few encouragements for both church leaders and members. Though not exhaustive, they will hopefully help raise the voice for Christ-exalting, gospel-proclaiming evangelism in the local church.
1. Memorize the gospel
If you’re saved, you know enough of the gospel to present it to someone else. However, it takes work to be clear and understandable. Every believer should commit to memory the basic components of the gospel. With those elements memorized, we should work daily to recite it to ourselves and even in role play with other believers. Seldom will you hold your Bible in hand when an evangelistic opportunity presents itself. While a memorized gospel presentation is not a prerequisite for evangelism, it will allow you to present the gospel with clarity and conviction.
If you're a pastor, set a goal for the entire church to commit the gospel to memory. No matter how young or advanced in years, every believer must have the gospel message spring-loaded, ready to give at any moment. A church that propagates is one that takes deliberate steps to keep the saving gospel message on the forefront of each believer’s mind.
2. Recruit a prayer team
The hard work of evangelism begins on our knees TWEET, petitioning God to go before us in the hearts of those we engage with the gospel. No amount of human effort can save someone. So, in humility and dependency, we approach the throne of God with our prayers of intercession. This follows the pattern of Paul, who prays earnestly for his mission field when he says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”
Not only does this step add volume to our prayers as a church, it also creates accountability to keep one another in perpetual motion toward specific unbelievers. When we pray for specific unbelievers, as individuals and as groups, we grow increasingly aware of the opportunities Christ is giving to proclaim his name.
3. Live holy
The most clear and accurate gospel presentation is muted if unbelievers identify you by patterns of sin (anger, lust, gossip, laziness) instead of patterns of righteousness (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). In humility, repent when you sin, and use even your failures to magnify God’s mercy. Let your holiness and repentance distinguish you from the world. The consistent example of a changed life is compelling proof of salvation.
4. Engage your personal mission field
As you read this today, who are the unbelievers you’re engaging with the gospel? It’s not enough to talk about them, you must talk with them, using the natural points of connection in your life to advance the gospel conversation. God, in his sovereign grace, chose to place you in the context of those particular unbelievers. Don’t throw away the opportunity to proclaim his saving message. This is your mission field.
You may find yourself in a season of life where you’re insulated from the unbelieving world (living at a Christian college, at home with a believing family). Or, perhaps you have drifted toward the relationships of least resistance, surrounding yourself with like-minded Christians. If this is true for you, remember the example of Christ, who was always interacting with unbelievers (Luke 7:34; John 4:7-30), and then take the first step in the right direction.
Challenge yourself and other believers to identify those to pursue with the gospel. At the same time, constantly work to create new networks that open up new mission fields for gospel ministry.
5. Relentlessly love other believers
The hard work of evangelism is carried out most vividly when believers speak and act with Christ-exalting love for one another. Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Christian love is vital to evangelism because it makes the love of Christ visible for the world to see. The world is watching and must see the transforming power of the gospel on display in our lives. This was at the heart of Paul’s challenge to Philemon in extending forgiveness to Onesimus (Phlm 1:8-10).
The unbelieving world must see the Holy Spirit enabling Christians to serve one another, encourage one another, endure hardship, refuse gossip, speak the truth in love and embrace suffering. To what extent are the “one anothers” made visible in your relationships with other believers? Does your love for other believers give credibility to your gospel presentation?
6. Lead by example
No matter your age, level of responsibility or visibility within the church, you can lead by example. The heart of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy is to lead by example despite his youth (1 Tim 4:12). Some of the greatest evangelists are those whose names we won’t remember, but were relentlessly faithful to tell others about Jesus.
Those who lead by example in evangelism encourage others to fight the temptation to be lazy and complacent. TWEET Tell people about opportunities God has given you to share the gospel and encourage others to share their stories as well. Don’t wait for someone else to lead by example, take initiative and others will follow.
7. Celebrate salvation
Never lose sight of the miracle that happens in new birth. If heaven explodes in celebration in response to the new birth, so should we. One way to do this is to share testimonies often. We can never hear enough of the work Christ has done in drawing someone to salvation. In your church, incorporate the recounting of salvation wherever possible. Doing so reminds us of the many ways the gospel penetrates hearts and how God chooses to use saved sinners in that process.
8. Maximize evangelistic gatherings
Certain church gatherings lend themselves to evangelistic purposes with greater clarity than others. For example, hold a Good Friday service in a local park or community center. In the weeks leading up to the evening, saturate the surrounding community with invitations, then maximize the service by presenting the gospel clearly. The same can be done with baptism. Hold a baptism service in a public setting and invite unbelieving family, friends and those you find along the way to listen to the testimonies of
Though many more could be added, these simple steps will develop a stronger evangelistic culture in your local church. Evangelism isn’t just something we do, it’s part of who we are. It’s not a question of ability or adequacy, it’s a question of obedience to Christ.
A church that loves Christ is a church that will not be stopped in its proclamation of the gospel and its demonstration of love for Christ. As ambassadors of Christ and the gospel, we can engage this world boldly and look forward to the work Christ will do in and through us, for his glory.
Jim Stitzinger serves as the director of the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization at Southern Seminary. Previously he has served as a church planter and pastor in SW Florida and as the pastor of local outreach and evangelism at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, CA. He completed his M.Div at The Master’s Seminary in 2002, contributed to Evangelism in the John MacArthur Pastoral Library Series and edited the Grace Evangelism training curriculum. In addition, Jim served as adjunct professor of evangelism for The Master’s Seminary and as chaplain at multiple police departments and hospitals. This article originally appeared in A Guide to Evangelism edited by Dan DeWitt.
Dear Dr. Craig,
My question is on objective morality. I lead a Christian life group of 11th and 12th graders, where I often use apologetics to show them that belief in God, specifically Christianity, is not only the true religion, but also the best explanation for the origin of the universe.
I firmly believe that equipping teenagers in this particular stage of life is essential to firmly ground their beliefs and also to explain their reasons for holding such beliefs as they prepare for university and the work force.
With regard to objective moral value though, I find myself wrestling with a problem. I do agree that without God there cannot be moral objectivity, but where do we get the rules for morality?
Here’s a summary of this past week’s For Christ and Culture radio broadcasts!Sportsmanship and the Believer (Friday, February 28)
Barry talks about prayer, humility, competition, and self-control.
Kevin Warstler drops by to discuss some more examples of poetic language – this time from the Bible.
Barry Creamer is joined by our favorite theologian, Dr. Everett Berry, to talk about two purposes of prayer: fellowship and help.
Barry Creamer begins a journey through the book of Galatians.
Dr. Henderson talks with Rebecca Carrell, from the KCBI Morning Show, about her story of redemption and what God has her doing now.
I’ve read a few blogs recently that suggest the idea of a women's ministry in a church is somehow passé.
I beg to differ.
Instead, I want to say that every church will always need a women’s ministry. Let’s talk about why that is. In this first article, I want to address the biblical basis for a women’s ministry in every church. And then, in the second article we’ll think about women’s ministry historically and why it is still needed today in our egalitarian society.
Vultures sat atop carcasses of dead gods. Dry, dusty, and dangerous is May in Rajasthan, India. So even the divine Brahman cows gave up and died because temperatures soared to 128 degrees in the shade as students and I worked in villages near Sawai Madhopur. Ethnographic surveys gave presence in the villages. Being dry season, the village Sarpanches, or leaders, were available to interact through translation. We covered five Hindu villages and two Islamic ones in 10 days.
Draught was so devastating in a village that all wells but one were dry. The Sarpanch walked us to it. I dropped a pebble into the dark hole, counting 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi, 3-Mississippi—no sound of wetness. Seeing desperation on the faces of the whole gathered village during the sound of silence prompted the Sarpanch to speak nervously. “You are Christians, please pray for us to have rain.” Not being one in the miracle business, I prefer to wait for such opportunities. I asked the students and villagers to hold hands, bowed my head to distinguish our mode of praying from theirs, and the translator spoke.
Indian homes have rooftop spaces to cool off in the hot season evenings. Our team was atop our small hotel after an earlier treat of tandoori chicken and dhal. Against the evening sky colors changed from light blue to dark, and there came a single cloud, small and furious, moving quickly toward us. It passed overhead and straight out to the general set of villages where we worked. We wondered aloud where it would go and what it might do.
When departing for India, William Carey (1761-1834) said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” How often do we prefer to attempt without a prayerful foundation of expectant prayer?
Morning came, and we went to the next scheduled village on our list. People there smiled and excitedly asked us, “Are you the Christians who prayed?” The night before, our little cloud unloaded on their neighbors, now with their wells full to overflowing. Of course, that day we prayed there too.
In small Hindu settings, usually a central temple honors any number of the acclaimed 330 million deities, but usually one deity, facially recognizable, features prominently because they follow the way of devotion, Bhakti. This was part of our ethnographic fact finding. In this village, the divine face was shaved off. When asked which deity it was, the Sarpanch sheepishly said, “We do not know sir because of an ancient earth quake, but we worship the image devotedly.”
Rain and unknown gods were both grist for the prayer this time. 1 Kings 18:41-45 and Acts 17: 22-32 were intermingled. We proclaimed that day a known, loving God whose face is full of love, and who died and rose again proving it. The Sarpanch said, “We wish to know more about this Jesus.” We offered, and he invited us to show the Hindi version of the Jesus film that night. Many sought spiritual counsel afterward; even the translator came to Christ that night.
When departing for India, William Carey (1761-1834) said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” How often do we prefer to attempt without a prayerful foundation of expectant prayer?
There was a woman I know who fell in love and married a man from another culture, another religion, different ways very foreign to her known life. Her husband’s father had died before she met him, so she entered this single parent family wholeheartedly and her mother-in-law taught her a new way of living and loving where their house became a home and she felt she belonged.This was so true that when her husband died ten years into their marriage, she made a commitment to her mother-in-law.
Just a reminder that the Rice Lectures are now just two weeks away on Wednesday, March 19. Pastor Peter Hubbard, who is the teaching pastor at North Hills Community Church in Taylors, SC, will be presenting three lectures based on his new book Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church.
The lectures will run from 8:30 a.m. till noon. A free lunch will be provided afterward. There is no cost to attend the Rice Lectures. However, for planning purposes, all guests are requested to register in advance so that adequate seating and food can be provided. Registration can be completed by calling (313) 381-0111, ext. 400, or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Below, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, discusses the new book, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, to which he contributed, with Towers book review editor Matt Damico.
MD: Why is this book necessary?
RAM: Well, on the one hand, it’s necessary because the issue of inerrancy is never a settled issue; it’s never going to go away. It comes part-and-parcel with the modern world. Modernity itself presents a set of issues that are going to have to be answered one way or another. Thus, we’ll land either in the affirmation of inerrancy or in some other place. I think inerrancy continues to be a defining issue for what evangelical integrity requires.
Also, there is utility in a five, or multiple-view book like this. Zondervan’s been doing this for some time, other publishers have had a similar format. I found, as a theology student when they first started coming out, that these were very helpful ways to get at issues, some better than others. I do not believe this one accomplished all that I had hoped it would accomplish, by means of having multiple views, but I still think it’s good to have a debate in a book.
I knew, when I took this assignment, that I would be the “heavy.” I knew that up front, so I knew that most reviewers of this book from some evangelical circles would be quite critical. I knew that when I took up the responsibility because they’re already critical of the Chicago Statement [on Biblical Inerrancy].
Also, I fault several of my co-authors for failing actually to deal with what the book was supposed to be about, and that is the Chicago Statement. Some of them, quite cleverly, avoided actually dealing with some of the issues that the book was supposed to be about. So, with every one of these projects, there are satisfactions and frustrations, but I hope this serves the cause of Christ and the church well, and I still very much want people to read it.
MD: What do you mean when you use the term “inerrancy”?
RAM: Vocabulary is always a problem. That’s true in international diplomacy; it’s true in labor contracts; it’s true in the making of legislation; and it’s true in theology as well. That’s why, for instance, the Chicago Statement emerged in the 1970’s at a specific moment when definition was badly needed.
This book is not just about inerrancy; it is specifically addressed to the Chicago Statement and revisiting that question. I believe the Chicago Statement very accurately described inerrancy. There are new issues to be addressed, but I would not take away anything the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy achieved with that.
MD: Some people accuse the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy of being too modernistic. How well do you think the Chicago Statement articulates the historic view of the church?
RAM: This whole idea of it being modernistic is a canard; it’s cute, but it’s not all that meaningful. It is entirely true that the doctrine of inerrancy as it is described and defined in the Chicago Statement was not necessary until the advent of modernity. We should be unembarrassed by that.
In other words, there is no way to escape the modern age; we are chronological creatures, and here we are. Part of what it means in this generation to give a reason for the hope that is in us is to answer the questions that this age is asking, and in the modern age, questions about the veracity of divine revelation are inescapable. So, I’m not embarrassed at all to say that inerrancy is something that is found in the modern age in terms of its codification. I’m also quite bold to say that if you look at the history of the church, you will not find something less than an affirmation of inerrancy. You’ll find the assumption of inerrancy.
When I teach historical theology and do a doctoral seminar on it, one of the main things I stress is that in all of theology there is a tension between what can be assumed and what must be articulated. At various points in church history and in various contexts, you could assume certain things, therefore they were not articulated.
That’s the same reason why, for instance, the modern issues of sexuality require new confessional responses from the church. It’s not that the church has changed its mind, much less innovated on the issue, but when the Baptist Faith and Message was passed in 1925 no one was talking about homosexuality as an open question; the same thing was even true in 1963. But in 2000, when the Southern Baptist Convention revised the Baptist Faith and Message, we had to talk about it because the age and the context demanded an answer. The same thing is true with inerrancy.
So, if the accusation is that inerrancy in its defined form in the Chicago Statement is intellectually situated in the modern world, we simply have to plead guilty because we also are intellectually situated in the modern world. The interesting thing is that the people who make that accusation are also living in the modern world. And thus, they also have to give some answer. So, if their answer isn’t inerrancy, their answer is something else. If someone from the fifteenth century comes to interrogate me on inerrancy, I’ve got bigger problems than defining inerrancy. The people who are talking about inerrancy are twenty-first century people, who also have to deal with the same thing. So, it’s an observation, but it’s a canard. It’s a way of distracting the conversation.
MD: Some readers may be surprised to see you and Kevin Vanhoozer articulating different views in this book. Where do you differ?
RAM: Well, that’s a frustration to me in the sense that I’m not sure what the differences actually are. It seems to me that professor Vanhoozer wants to critique the Chicago Statement for failing to say some things that, upon reflection and reading, the Chicago Statement actually said. Perhaps they could have been said more clearly, perhaps they need to be said more loudly. But virtually all the qualifications he demands of the Chicago Statement are actually in the Chicago Statement.
One issue that becomes very interesting is where he wants to talk about a “nuanced” understanding of inerrancy or, basically, a more sophisticated understanding of inerrancy. The burden is then to demonstrate exactly how that differs from the Chicago Statement in any material sense. When we read, for instance, professor Vanhoozer’s responses to the three problematic passages, it appears that he answers them more or less like someone who signed the Chicago Statement would answer them. [NOTE: each contributor was asked to address the historicity of Joshua 6, the apparent contradiction in Acts 9:7 and 22:9 and the theological differences in Deuteronomy 20:16-17 and Matthew 5:43-48.]
His recourse to speech-act theory is also very interesting. It’s informative and it’s hermeneutically helpful at certain points. But its actual relation to the inspiration of Scripture is extremely problematic because we do not have the speech act, what we have is Scripture. It seems that the inevitable pattern this implies is something very akin to Barthian neo-orthodoxy, where revelation happens over here and you have the record of it in Scripture. Well, if you separate revelation from the act to the record of Scripture, then the truth status of that written word becomes problematic over against the speech act. That’s one problem.
The other thing is on questions of historicity. For instance, there were several who accused the Chicago Statement of prejudging issues as historical. Well, the statement’s framers, some of whom I know quite well and personally, would come right back and say, “That’s because Scripture quite straightforwardly establishes that right up front.” In other words, it’s clearly making a historical claim. And yet there is this attempt of some within evangelicalism to try to say, “This isn’t making a historical claim,” when it quite clearly is. So, you have proposals now which will go to one single chapter — for instance, the Licona move in Matthew — saying that one portion of the chapter is clearly making historical claims, but another is merely a literary device. [NOTE: Michael Licona, in his 2010 book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, questioned the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27.] That is exactly what the framers of the Chicago Statement sought to preclude.
I am not claiming infallibility for the statement made by the ICBI or its framers. But I do think what they did was a very significant and essential theological achievement. It can be built upon, but must not be dismissed or minimized in any way.
MD: What’s the importance of inerrancy for a pastor maintaining a robust pulpit ministry?
RAM: It makes all the difference in the world. It may not appear at first that it necessarily would, because there are a lot of preachers in this day and age who reject the inerrancy of Scripture and still feel like they have something to say. No doubt, they still have something to say, but that’s really not the issue. The issue is: what are we able to tell people the text of Scripture is and what is its demand upon us? The question is not whether the preacher has something to say, but whether God is going to say something through the preacher and through his Word. And, if the preacher has any question whatsoever about the truth status of the Word of God, it will inevitably shift to the preaching. The shift from “I’m going to preach the Word” to “I’m going to find something in this witness worthy of my attention and preaching.”
The other move made by some is what I call “as if preaching: I’m going to preach this as if it is true,” which is something those in the mainline Protestant churches came up with. But, you know, a congregation can quickly tell the difference between preaching something as true and preaching something as if this is true. And, at the end of the day, that makes all the difference in the world.
You can connect with R. Albert Mohler Jr. on Twitter at @albetmohler, on Facebook, or at AlbertMohler.com. Dr. Mohler has also written many other books including The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters.See also:
- Southern Seminary Departement of Leadership and Discipleship
- The Conviction to Lead by R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Does YHWH’s Election of Israel Result in the Rejection of the Nations? Part 1: The Amalekites and the Midianites
Among the prominent themes within the Old Testament, YHWH’s election of Israel to be his special people is especially significant. However, the idea that YHWH chose one specific group to be his special people has offended many people in the modern world, for whom the ideals of equality and equal opportunity are very important. If YHWH chose Israel, did he reject the other nations? This post will examine two groups whom YHWH views ambiguously in the Torah to explore in more detail YHWH’s relationship with non-Israelite nations in light of the election of Israel.
We begin the second part of our series on American Denominationalism by examining those denominations that originated in the United States.Read other articles from this series on American Denominations and Other Religious Movements.
The first denomination we will examine was an attempt to be an anti-denomination, that is, they were trying not to form another denomination but to exist simply as New Testament Christians. Because of this, they tried to avoid using a denominational name and merely called themselves “Christians” or “Disciples,” names we see the New Testament giving to followers of Jesus. Consequently, there is considerable confusion over what to call this group since they used numerous names. Historians call the broad movement the “Restoration Movement” because they sought to restore the church to its primitive, New Testament ways.What is the Restoration Movement?
The Restoration movement is a Christian movement that originated in the early years of America’s history (1790-1825). The group followed two ideals:
- Mere Biblicism: their devotion to Scripture alone and to the New Testament ideal church led them to reject what they considered to be the trappings of human-centered denominations, worship, and faith.
- Christian Unity: they had a strong concern for Christian unity and thus rejected denominational division.
Their zealous commitment to these ideals led their leaders to embrace the following characteristics:
- A high emphasis on the importance of the autonomy of the local congregation.
- A rejection of extra-congregational entities, such as missionary societies or denominational conventions.
- A common liturgy that emphasized baptism “for the remission of sins,” the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and a rejection of instrumental worship.
- A rejection of Calvinism, as well as a deep suspicion of emotionally intense conversions.
In time the combination of their anti-denominational attitude and their unique liturgy ironically generated the founding of another denomination. Today, we know them under a number of names: the “Churches of Christ,” the “Disciples of Christ,” and the “Christian Churches” are the most popular.A Brief History of the Restoration Movement
The opening decades of the American Republic witnessed a proliferation of new religious movements in America, many of which were related to Christianity in varying degrees. A general mood of anti-traditionalism and its rejection of the Old World spilled over into many American churches. Several Christian leaders saw the absence of an official state church as a golden opportunity to restore the Christian church to its original, primitive ways based upon a plain reading of Scripture. The push to “restore” the true church was born.
The Restoration Movement had multiple origins as leaders from numerous denominations came to embrace the vision of “restoration.” In the 1790s John O’Kelley, a Methodist leader, formed a group of “Christians” who rejected ties to British Methodism. In New England two former Baptists, Elias Smith and Abner Jones, founded a connection of churches based upon restorationist ideals. Former Presbyterians Barton Stone in Kentucky and Alexander Campbell in Pennsylvania founded separate movements along similar lines. Stone called his group the “Christians,” while Campbell’s group was called the “Disciples,” names designed to reflect their reliance upon sticking as close to Scripture as possible. It was these latter two groups that grew significantly throughout the 1810s and 20s. Both groups independently developed similar features, including the following:
- An emphasis on the autonomy of the local congregations as the focal point of God’s work in the world. Restorationist churches were bent on preserving local church autonomy and therefore they rejected any extra-congregational church entity, such as missionary societies or conventions.
- A weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
- An emphasis on believer’s baptism by immersion “for the remission of sins.” Though they rejected the notion of “baptismal regeneration” as unscriptural and Roman Catholic, restorationist churches drew a very close relationship between faith, the rite of baptism, and salvation.
- A rejection of instrumental worship during corporate worship. They pointed out that the New Testament nowhere explicitly prescribes the use of instruments in worship. Thus, instruments should not be used in church services today; Christians should rather thus sing a cappella (i.e. without instrumental accompaniment) in their praises to God. (Old Testament worship employed instruments, but restorationists noted that those commands were associated with the liturgy of the Jewish temple, an institution that has been abrogated since Christ’s first advent).
- Theologically, most restorationists rejected Calvinism and the use of creeds or confessions. Calvinism was an Old World faith, and creeds and confessions of all forms were thought to be divisive and denominational rather than unifying.
- Significantly, many early restorationists (especially Barton Stone) were deeply suspicious of the doctrine of the Trinity because they found it a mysterious doctrine that is contrary to reason. They also did not find the term “Trinity” in Scripture. Campbell, however, was much more affirming of the doctrine and wrote essays defending Trinitarian theology while sharply criticizing Unitarianism.
- Some early restorationists rejected the emotionalism of revivals, opting instead for a rationalistic and objective understanding of conversion that emphasized mere trust in the facts of the gospel as the prerequisite for salvation.
While Campbell’s group operated under the umbrella of a Baptist association in the 1820s, it was clear that they were no ordinary Baptists. By the early 1830s, Campbell’s “Disciples” left the Baptists and merged with Stone’s “Christians” to form a group that took on various names: the “Christian Church” or the “Disciples of Christ” depending on who you asked (I’ll refer to them as “Disciples” for simplicity). The middle third of the 19th century (1830s-1860s) saw the Disciples movement grow significantly, a testimony to the fact that a sizeable number of American church-goers resonated with their views. By the 1860s there were just as many Disciples congregations in the United States as there were Congregational churches and Anglican churches.
As the movement developed and grew, disagreements with other denominations as well as internal disagreements brought about change. Significant disputes arose between Baptists and the Disciples. In fact, their conflict in the 19th century was a significant factor in the formation of Landmark Baptists, who shared some views in common with the Disciples (like the autonomy of the local church and baptism by immersion) but sharply disagreed with them over their views of baptism “for the remission of sins” and their hesitancy to affirm the doctrine of the Trinity clearly.
Disagreements also arose among themselves over various issues. Some Disciples desired to adopt instrumental worship for their services. Others sought to form a missionary sending agency that would facilitate world missions. Later, other leaders of the movement began adopting the tenets of theological liberalism. These disputes (and others) led to a three-fold division in the movement that has remained to this day (see below).Christian Churches Today
Today there are three main groups that are descendants of the original Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. Their names overlap, which can create confusion among those on the outside.
- The “Churches of Christ” (a cappella or non-instrumental), which resisted the trend to embrace instrumental worship in the 19th century. Generally, these are the very conservative restorationists. They claim to have 1.6 million members in the United States. Worldwide they number 5 million in 42,000 churches.
- The Independent “Christian church and Churches of Christ” which embraced instrumental worship but otherwise strongly resemble the a cappella Churches of Christ. They number about one million members in the United States in roughly 6,000 congregations.
- The “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),” which represents the more liberal wing of the restoration movement. They boast 700,000 members in 3,600 congregations.
- Thomas Campbell & Alexander Campbell – father and son duo; Scottish Seceder churchmen who immigrated to America in the early 1800s and were instrumental in the formation of the Restoration Movement.
- Barton Stone (1772-1844) – originally an American Presbyterian, Stone founded a “Christian” movement in Kentucky that followed restorationist principles.
- Walter Scott (1796-1861) – noted evangelist of the early Restoration Movement
- Christian unity
- Mere Biblicism
- The autonomy of the local congregation
- Baptism “for the remission of sins”
- Noninstrumental worship
- James A. Garfield (1831-1881) – 20th President of the United States
- Max Lucado (b. 1955) – Pastor of Oak Hills Church of Christ (Houston) and best-selling Christian author
- Abilene Christian University – private university in Abilene, Texas, founded in 1906.
- Texas Christian University (TCU) – private university in Fort Worth, Texas, founded in 1873 by the “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).”
In my last post (What Does The Fox Say? Who is the Fox Anyway?) I wrote about Herod Antipas. As I was writing, I realized that a lot of people get confused about who “Herod” is in the Bible. This isn’t surprising since there are actually six different (!) “Herods” in the New Testament, and they are all somehow related to each other. Here are thumbnail sketches to help you keep track of who’s who...
If you have spent time counseling men in the areas of purity and pornography, you have probably, like me, struggled to find a resource that is biblical, straightforward, pastoral, and pure itself. In my opinion, Heath Lambert has written such a book, titled Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (Zondervan, 2013). This book is designed as a resource both for those fighting against the sin of viewing pornography and for those helping those who are.
I recently read through the book while preparing for a retreat, and found it to be extremely practical. Lambert has served as a pastor and now as a teacher, and is also the Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (formerly NANC–which, in my view, bodes well for this organization). Lambert is biblical, pastoral, hopeful, and straightforward in his counsel.
Here are a few quotes I highlighted from the Kindle edition I purchased to get you started:
- “Jesus’ grace to change you is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy you” (28).
- “Godly sorrow feels the horror of disobedience and weeps over the reality of a heart that chose transgression over faithfulness” (38).
- “Employing radical measures is the path to life, while indulging sin is the path to hell. God does not forbid sexual immorality because he wants you to be miserable ; God forbids it because sexual immorality leads to brokenness, sadness, emptiness, death, and hell ” (62).
- “The great call of your life is to be holy, as Jesus is holy. Pornography stands firmly opposed to that call. You must run from it and toward Christ” (154).
Lambert outlines through the chapters an eight-pronged approach to a grace-founded fight against pornography. Also, there is an appendix that provides practical counsel for those hurt by another’s struggle that I found to be valuable as well. If you are a pastor, you will want to get a copy of this as a resource for yourself and others.
Recently I was asked how I was doing as a “creator.” I’ve been asked similar questions before, but this time it startled me because it was tethered to Genesis 1:26 and what it means to be made in the image of God. As spiritual beings, our creativity comes from being fashioned in the image of God and one implication of the imago Dei is an expectation to be intentionally engaged in creating. That means taking the raw materials from the world around us as well as the ideas in our head and creating stuff. It also means taking the broken and unformed things of our fallen world and animating them for the glory of God.
Creation, however, is not a one-time thing. Things created by humans often have to be improved or re-created as new needs, challenges and opportunities emerge. And that’s where innovation is needed. The term innovation comes from the Latin word innovare that means “to renew or change.” Innovation is about creating or substantially improving objects, ideas or processes.
Peter Drucker, renowned expert on leadership, observed that innovation grows out of changes in markets, technologies and demographics among other contexts. As changes occur, leaders have both the opportunity and the responsibility to innovate in order to serve well the cause they are guiding.
From this perspective, you can see how Christian leaders such as the apostle Paul, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, William Tyndale, Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis and more were not only faithful in their leadership, but also innovative as they faced changes in culture, markets, technologies and demographics in their day.
So, how are you doing as a creator and as an innovator? How are you responding to the changes confronting your leadership calling?
In whatever capacity God calls you to lead (however large or small), you will have a responsibility to innovate. Leaders who fail to innovate don’t just miss opportunities to move forward, they are vulnerable to losing ground, to growing stagnant and ineffective.
In light of this stewardship responsibility you bear, the next question is critical. How can you become an effective innovator as you strive to be a fully engaged, kingdom-focused leader? In the churches and Christian institutions where I’ve served, I’ve observed seven commitments common to innovative leaders that I would commend to you:
1. Carve out intentional time to exploit your creativity. Haste is the silent killer of creativity. Being a strategic and innovative leader requires solitude coupled with a serious work ethic. You need to find a place to be intensely creative while the noise of life is muted. I recommend carving out a minimum of one hour each day, one day each month and one weekend each year. Get out of your normal setting and off to a place that gets your creative juices flowing. A familiar routine of dedicated creative time, passionate devotion, and a clear mind are all prerequisites for innovative leaders. Remember that if you don’t control your schedule, someone else will.
2. Be half-crazy 100 percent of the time. Most leaders have to make a conscious choice either to blaze the trail or resign themselves to simply chasing the innovations of others. The personal reward for being creative far outweighs constant adoption and editing of other people’s ideas. Leaders by nature are not followers – they lead. The best innovators are incessantly thinking about being game changers in their genre. They ask a thousand crazy questions and find answers that surprise people.
3. Think big thoughts. Small thoughts are rarely found in the mind of an innovative leader. As a discipline you should think big. “Ideas, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood,” says John Maynard Keynes. “Indeed, the world is ruled by little else.”
4. Disrupt benevolently. With the recent resignation of Steve Jobs from Apple came an onslaught of reminders about his brilliant ability to disrupt markets. “Jobs gave people products they didn’t know they wanted,” wrote Nick Schulz of the American Enterprise Institute, “and then made those products indispensable to their lives.” Nobody embodied disruptive technology better than the imitable Steve Jobs, but Christian leaders are called to be even more disruptive than Jobs. We follow Jesus – a man who disrupted history, traditions, institutions and human nature in a benevolent way as he came from heaven to redeem the world. Consider where your leadership might require “benevolent disruption” – intentional upsetting of the status quo in order to proclaim faithfully the good news of Christ’s disruptive kingdom inaguration in our world.
5. Consider the Scriptures. As a Christian leader, your creativity and ability to innovate has to be Scripture-soaked. The word of God provides the necessary guardrails to avoid a brilliant idea that is outside of orthodoxy or just plain foolish. I’m confident the Tower of Babel seemed like a brilliant idea at the time! You can’t let big ideas drive you beyond Scripture. Don’t fall in love with your ideas; fall in love with Christ.
6. Surround yourself with capable leadership. Innovative leaders need brutally honest people in their lives who are not afraid to challenge their ideas for the sake of validity and not because of competition. Since we all have blind spots and often miss the whole for the parts, it is crucial to have a team of candid and competent, transformational architects shaping your leadership.
7. Possess unrelenting tenacity. Innovation has to be matched with tenacity to overcome small and unwilling thinking. “We’ve never done that before.” “We tried that in the past.” “What will people think?” “It can’t be done,” and the list goes on and on. Pushing beyond the nay-sayers is often a daunting challenge. Innovative leaders make things happen and push through the first “no.” If you’re going to overcome your critics, you have to undergird your innovation with unrelenting tenacity.
Raising an innovator
Early innovators make for the strongest leaders. If you’re a parent, you can create a culture of innovation in your home prior to your children’s ever getting to the marketplace or ministry. Take the raw material around you and foster creative disciplines.
Here are three ways you can start early:
Allow your children to be adventurous and take risks. Over-protective parents stifle children’s creativity without realizing it. Small wins build confidence. (I’ve found The Dangerous Book for Boys to be a good primer for cultivating adventure and risk taking with my boys.)
Encourage ceaseless curiosity. Teach them to figure out stuff. Give them a challenge that is beyond their age and beyond what’s printed on a box.
Appreciate the tenacity of a “wild child,” knowing that this is the necessary material to be a future game-changer. An unrelenting child is not a nuisance; he or she, if trained, will be a future leader. Take the raw material and point them toward productivity and creativity.
Dan Dumas is senior vice president for institutional administration at Southern Seminary. He is a church planter and pastor-teacher at Crossing Church in Louisville, Ky. You can connect with him on Twitter at @DanDumas, on Facebook or at DanDumas.com. This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Southern Seminary Magazine.See also:
- Southern Seminary Departement of Leadership and Discipleship
- The Conviction to Lead by R. Albert Mohler Jr.
- Leaders Don't Panic - DanDumas.com
Here’s a summary of this past week’s For Christ and Culture radio broadcasts!Income Equality and Judas Kiss (Friday, February 21)
Professor Kirk Spencer drops by to talk about two recent posts he has on the Criswell blog.
Barry invites Kevin Warstler back to talk about why poetry can do what no other use of language can.
Barry Creamer talks with Scott Shiffer about a recent archaeological find and what it says about the veracity of the biblical account.
Truth in a Red Pill (Thursday, February 27)
Dr. David Henderson warns us of a few defense mechanisms we employ when faced with the truth.
I read your excellent book "Creation out of Nothing" and I agree with it!
However, doesn't God need tremendous (if not infinite) energy to create something out of nothing? Is God's energy something rather than nothing? What is God's Mind made of if it is immaterial?...
I’ve visited sub-Saharan Africa a few times and have started to get a handle on the grassroots economic theory that dominates the local villages: zero-sum economics. In brief, traditional African culture understands that there is a fixed amount of wealth available at all times, so if one villager becomes wealthy, he necessarily does so at the expense of others, who conversely become poor. In such a model, a man who works hard, earns money, and starts socking that money away in a bank account is immoral, because by “hoarding” this money, he is denying his neighbors the opportunity to prosper or even to survive.
The effects of this economic theory are manifold. Some of these are not entirely bad—the Africans I met tended to be relational, communitarian, less penurious than the average American, and even quite generous (of course they expected the same from me, so this wasn’t pure altruism, but there is a certain civility in African society that is rather pleasant). Still, the problems with this theory were glaring. People still hoarded, but deceitfully and hypocritically; envy often outpaced magnanimity. But the most obvious problem of zero-sum economics was that, absent the idea of wealth creation, almost all incentive for steady work, planning, investment, and advancement disappear. After all, if I may keep only my little sliver of pie, what reason do I have to earn more?
As Americans (and especially those of us of the Republican persuasion), we tend to have the opposite problem. We tend to see all wealth as created, and suppress the uncomfortable thought that my wealth might possibly contribute to the hardship of someone else…except when it comes to church planting. Here, zero-sum economics often flourishes. If a new church plant appears near the perimeter of an established church’s “turf,” worry sets in—worry that the new church will lure away members from the existing church and prosper at its expense. After all, there are only so many Christians to go around, so a new church means fewer Christians for all of the existing churches. And while no one would ever actually say this, a mindset begins to emerge that it’s actually better to eliminate churches than it is to plant them; after all, when a church dies, this means more ‘wealth’ to distribute among the surviving churches.
But here’s the problem. It denies the possibility of the creation of ‘wealth’—in this case the creation of new believers—and removes all incentive to work hard at evangelism, invest in discipleship, and advance the cause of Christ. Sure, the surviving churches often have a wonderful sense of community and belonging, but without ‘wealth’ creation, the community will never truly prosper.
I grant, of course, that some new church planters hold to a zero-sum economic theory too—they plant churches fully intending to populate them with stolen sheep rather than with new sheep, suppressing and eliminating competition as their primary means of church growth. This is a problem that I recognize to be fully as serious as the previous. But in both situations, the solution is not to stop planting churches; instead, the solution is for all parties to recognize that the primary means to the establishment and growth of churches is by the creation and cultivation of new believers through the hard work of evangelism.
Jesus has been missing from the big screen for too long. It has been 10 years since Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” and it focused only on the end of the Passion Week. But for a Bible-based full life of Christ it has been 35 years since the “Jesus” movie (1979) and 49 years since “The Greatest Story Ever Told” (1965).
Roma Downey (star of the television series “Touched by an Angel”) and her husband, Mark Burnett (producer of “Survivor,” “The Voice,” “The Apprentice,” and “Shark Tank”), said the idea for the “Son of God” movie came while filming “The Bible” television miniseries. The cast and crew watched weekly cuts of the film, and they decided to add some footage and make the feature-length film “Son of God.” One hundred million people watched the television series across the world, and one hopes even more people will watch “Son of God.” It is a positive movie about Jesus, and the world needs to hear and understand its message.Surpassing the Miniseries
Although largely lifted out of “The Bible” miniseries, the “Son of God” movie has notable improvements. Rather than using the Sam Waterston-type of all-knowing-but-impersonal narrator of the miniseries, the narrator is now the Apostle John. The film opens with him exiled on Patmos. He is lonely, sitting in a cave by a fire. The movie is John’s fond reminiscing about his time with Jesus. So, his narration is personal, passionate, and poignant. Jesus has forever changed his life since they met more than 60 years ago. Of course, this narrator choice is fitting because John was likely one of the first Apostles (John 1:35-40), he wrote the Gospel of John, and he outlived all of the other Apostles, writing Revelation while on Patmos (Rev 1:9).
The gospel message is very clear in the movie, and this is its greatest strength.
The gospel message is very clear in the movie, and this is its greatest strength. The first words spoken are John saying the theologically packed words of John 1:1. Jesus says the concise gospel message in John 3:16 to Nicodemus. He says John 14:6 to the Apostles. He clearly states that He is the Son of God to Caiaphas and the chief priests and says His kingdom is not of this world to Pilate. Fittingly, this conversation is one of the longest extended conversations straight from the Scriptures (John 18:33-38). Later in the movie these evangelistic conversations are recalled as flashbacks—effectively emphasizing their importance. Nicodemus is a key figure in “Son of God,” as he converts from being a willing collaborator with Caiaphas to an unwilling cog in the wheel of the Sanhedrin’s kangaroo court condemnation of Jesus to finally being a follower of Christ who sings a prayer while Mary anoints Jesus’ body for burial. Matthew goes from being a hated tax collector to an Apostle. Clearly the movie shows why and how one must become a follower of Jesus.
The musical score is beautiful, and this is not surprising since this collaborative team also worked on the movie “Gladiator.” The special effects are excellent, such as the hole in Jesus’ hands (even though the hole is in the wrong place). Other improvements over “The Bible” miniseries are more panoramic scenes and large group shots. Too many scenes in the “The Bible” miniseries appeared claustrophobic—close-ups likely to accommodate a small cast—but “Son of God” has a larger feel to it.
Two video montages in the movie are quite moving. One thought-provoking scene of contrasts involves Jesus praying His agonizing prayer at Gethsemane, Caiaphas reciting his prayer in the Temple, and Claudia praying to her ancestors by an idol of a Roman god while her husband Pontius Pilate stood beside her. This is a powerful scene as it shifts back and forth between three people fervently praying. But as the movie depicts and the Bible makes clear, sincerity and ritual are not enough. Caiaphas attempts to pray to God while rejecting God’s Son, and that simply cannot work. If one rejects the Son, one rejects the Father (Matt 10:32-33; John 15:23-24). Claudia prays to ancestors who cannot hear and to a god who does not exist. Only Jesus, the Son of God, was truly communicating with the one true God.
In another moving montage, Jesus is being whipped—accurately portrayed as He is chained to a low wooden post. The camera cuts back and forth between the soldiers brutally whipping Jesus, a man counting each lash by moving rocks on a board, His mother Mary and some disciples painfully watching through a gate, Pilate and Claudia observing from a distance, and Judas hanging himself. This scene is quite effective and also not as gruesome as the one in Mel Gibson’s movie.
Interestingly, some key cuts from “The Bible” miniseries made “Son of God” a stronger presentation of Jesus and His message. They omitted all scenes of Herod the Great. Even though he was accurately portrayed in the television series as fat, sweaty, gross, murderous, and maniacal, omitting him from this film allowed more footage of Jesus’ ministry. They cut out Gabriel in human form, and that is good since those scenes came off as slightly cheesy. However the cheesiest and most controversial omitted scenes—and also the inappropriately funny scenes—were those of the Satan figure who was inadvertently a President Obama doppelganger. Those scenes detracted from the message of “The Bible” miniseries, so omitting them was a smart and effective move.Accurate Story with Many Accurate Details
Before listing the inaccuracies in the movie, it is important to note the movie got the story right. It clearly and effectively shows Jesus’ teaching, such as His emphasis on love and forgiveness, His miracles, and His message that resulted in His crucifixion. He is the Messiah (the Christ) and the Son of God. Also, it got most of the details right. Here are some examples:
- The costuming is very good, and the building architecture is accurate.
- The size and type of Galilean boat Jesus and the Apostles use is correct, based on the discovery of the Galilee Boat in 1986.
- Peter uses a circular net that is weighted around the perimeter—a common single-person fishing net for that day.
- The Jewish phylactery on the male Jewish foreheads is correctly depicted.
- Jesus uses His favorite term for Himself: “Son of Man” (see Matt 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40, for just a few examples).
- Caiaphas correctly calls Pontius Pilate a “prefect.” Prefects ruled Judea from AD 6-41, and the higher-ranking procurators ruled after Agrippa I’s death in AD 44.
- It correctly shows the Jewish hatred of Jewish tax collectors as collaborators who helped the despised Roman oppressors.
- Refreshingly, here is a movie that shows that Mary Magdalene was not the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) nor the woman who anointed Jesus in Luke 7:36-50! Also, it does not depict that entrapped woman as a prostitute, but just as a common woman.
- It depicts Pontius Pilate as a ruthless, strong Roman ruler that got backed into a corner with what to do about Jesus. He could not let Tiberius hear that he let an accused insurrectionist free.
- It records all seven sayings of Jesus from the cross in the correct order (Luke 23:34; 23:43; John 19:26-27; Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 19:28; 19:30; Luke 23:46).
- Spoiler alert: it shows that Jesus bodily resurrected and appeared to followers over a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3), and then He went to heaven (Acts 1:9-11).
“The Bible” miniseries opened each episode with a helpful disclaimer: “This program is an adaptation of Bible stories that changed our world. It endeavors to stay true to the spirit of the book.” Although this reviewer was somewhat irritated by adaptations that seemed unnecessary, the miniseries remained true to this claim. One wishes this same disclaimer were placed somewhere in “Son of God.” It did not have to be in the opening credits. It could have been placed in the closing credits, but is does not appear.
The inaccuracies in the Son of God movie were in specific details, chronological changes, conflations of events, or additions to what is recorded in the four Gospels. Although these inaccuracies are mostly minor, it is helpful to note them for clarity about what the Gospels actually say.Inaccuracies in specific details
- The movie depicts three magi arriving to see the baby Jesus the night of His birth. However, Matthew mentions three gifts but does not say how many magi came. Also, they came later when the family was living in a house (Matt 2:11). It was up to two years later because Herod the Great killed baby boys two years of age and younger in a futile attempt to kill this baby king (Matt 2:16).
- It depicts crucifixion nails going through the palms of Jewish revolutionaries early in the movie and then the palms of Jesus later in the movie. However, medical doctors say the spikes must go through the wrist in order to hold a person to the cross. 1 The Greek word cheiras (“hands,” Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 27) can refer to the palm, the hand, or the wrist, as indicated in Matt 22:13; Acts 21:11; and 12:17 when referring to binding chains on one’s “hands”—actually the wrists.
- When Jesus calls Peter in the fishing scene, He asks Peter to go to deeper water and fish. Yet, Luke records that Jesus first taught the multitudes from Peter’s boat, and then told Peter to go fish in deeper water. The movie has Peter with three baskets and a net full of fish. However, there were actually so many fish that Peter had to call his partners in another boat to come help—and the fish filled two boatloads so full that they began to sink (Luke 5:1-7).
- It has Mary Magdalene asking Jesus to feed the 5,000 and Peter bringing the five loaves and two fish to Jesus. However, it was the Apostles who asked about feeding the crowd, and Andrew brought Him the fish and bread (Luke 9:12; John 6:8-9).
- It shows Jesus kneeling and praying to God the Father prior to feeding the 5,000. However, He prayed while “looking up toward heaven” at this event (Matt 14:19; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16). The typical Jewish prayer position was standing and looking up toward heaven.
- When Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus’ dead body just has a simple tunic and no head cloth. This makes a dramatic scene as Jesus prays over the body in the tomb and Lazarus then opens his eyes. However, John says Jesus called out in a loud voice to Lazarus and certainly seemed to be outside of the tomb (John 11:43). Then John says Jesus told the people to unwrap Lazarus because his body and face were wrapped with cloths (v. 44). This affirms the typical Jewish method of burial: the body was wrapped with cloths and spices. The head was tied with a cloth napkin to hold the jaw shut.
- When Jesus says to render to Caesar what is his and to God what is His, the coin depicted is bronze and much too large. Yet, the coin was a Roman denarius (Mark 12:15; Luke 20:24) that was used for the “poll-tax” (Matt 22:19)—a small silver coin that varied in size between a US dime and penny.
- Jesus and the Apostles are seated upright at the Seder meal and Last Supper. However, for special meals like this, Jews reclined around a low table (Matt 26:20; Mark 14:18; Luke 22:14; John 13:23), leaning on their left arm and eating with their right hand.
- It depicts Judas Iscariot present during the Last Supper, but the Last Supper was the meal after the Passover Seder meal. Judas Iscariot was present for the Seder meal, then he left to betray Jesus, after which Jesus and the eleven Apostles had the Last Supper (Matt 26:21-29; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:14-23; John 13:21-30—although Luke does not give the chronological order here). Also, it has Judas Iscariot seated at Jesus’ right side and John seated across from Jesus; however, the only mention of where an Apostle sat in relation to Jesus at this meal was John, who sat at Jesus’ right side (John 13:23-25).
- It shows Jesus giving the bread morsel to Judas Iscariot, and then all of the Apostles realize that Judas will be the betrayer. However, John clearly shows only John knew what Jesus did at this moment. When Judas left, the Apostles thought he was leaving to buy more food (John 13:23-30).
- It depicts Golgotha as being far from the Temple and on a large hill. Although it was a hill, tradition says it was just outside of the city walls and likely not as high as depicted in this movie. Also, historians say the crucifixions would have taken place at the base of Golgotha rather than on Golgotha itself.
- The movie includes Jesus’ crown of thorns, but it does not show His scarlet robe nor His reed (Matt 27:28-29).
- It depicts the crucifixion earthquake and darkness (although the darkness is not fully rendered in the movie), but it just shows a multi-sectioned Temple veil sort of billowing about. However, the one-piece veil was clearly torn from top to bottom (Matt 27:51).
- It shows the soldiers putting a sponge of sour wine on the end of a spear to give Jesus a drink after He says, “I thirst.” However, John notes the sponge was on “hyssop” (so, a branch of hyssop, John 19:29). This is an important detail because at the first Passover the Jews used hyssop to apply the blood of the lamb on their lintel and doorposts (Ex 12:22), and Jesus was the final Passover Lamb (John 1:29, 36).
- When Jesus departs to heaven after 40 days of post-resurrection appearances, He appears to just fade away. However, Acts 1:9 says “He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”
- It has Claudia’s dream about Jesus early in the movie. However, Matthew mentioned it happened on Thursday night of the Passion Week. Also, the movie depicts Pontius Pilate discussing the matter with Claudia in between Jesus’ trials, but Matthew mentions she just sent him a note (27:19).
- It shows Jesus’ evangelistic conversation with Nicodemus late in the Passion Week, but John places it in the early Judean ministry of Jesus (John 3:1-16). Nicodemus is a key figure in the movie as he comes to faith in Jesus late in the story, but it may be that he came to faith early in Jesus’ ministry, when the John 3 conversation occurred.
- It places the scene during the Passion Week in which Caiaphas said they must get rid of Jesus in order to save Israel. Yet, John records this unwitting prophecy by Caiaphas after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead—likely some three to six months or so prior to the Passion Week (John 11:46-54).
- The movie shows Jesus clearly telling His Apostles during the Last Supper that He will be betrayed, crucified, and resurrected. However, the Gospels do not record Him saying this during the Last Supper. He did give these prophecies three times prior to the Passion Week (Matt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19—all three have parallels in Mark and Luke).
- It depicts Peter’s three-time betrayal of Jesus on Friday morning after the full Sanhedrin passed sentence on Jesus, but Mark, Luke, and John say it was Thursday night while there was a warming fire and while Peter was “in the firelight” (Luke 22:56).
- It shows Peter giving his first two denials to a soldier or official, but all four Gospels depict Peter’s denials to servants (Matt 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55-65; John 18:25-27). The minor differences in the Gospel accounts are easily explained in that each time someone questioned Peter, others nearby echoed the same question.
- The movie has Pilate ordering Jesus’ scourging prior to the release of Barabbas, but all four Gospels say Jesus was scourged after Barabbas was released (Matt 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-19:1).
- It has Pilate washing his hands after pronouncing judgment on Jesus, but Matthew and Mark seem to place this event prior to Pilate’s final pronouncement (Matt 27:24-26; Mark 15:15).
- It shows Caiaphas objecting to the three-language title for Jesus’ cross prior to it being written. However, John records the objection by the chief priests was clearly after the title was written and affixed to Jesus’ cross (John 19:19-22).
- In the movie Jesus gives the parable of the praying Pharisee and Publican when He calls Matthew to be an Apostle (Matt 9:9-13). But Luke placed this parable much later in Jesus’ ministry: during Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (Luke 18:9-14).
- The movie depicts Mary Magdalene asking Jesus to tell them how to pray during Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and He responds by giving the Lord’s Prayer. However, Luke 11:1-4 clearly records that at a different location (Judea), and much later in Jesus’ ministry, a disciple asked this question and Jesus responded.
- It records Jesus giving some of His teachings on seeking God’s Kingdom from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6) during His feeding of the 5,000 (Matt 14:15-21; Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:4-13). Of course, there were certainly times that Jesus repeated His teachings, and He could have given this same teaching to this large crowd that He fed, but of what is known about Jesus, this is a conflating of events.
- It has Peter give his great confession of who Jesus is around a campfire near the shores of the Sea of Galilee right after Jesus feeds the 5,000. However, this confession happened later and up north—at Caesarea Philippi (Matt 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21).
- It has Jesus at the Temple during Passion Week saying it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter heaven. However, He gave this teaching to His disciples after talking with the rich young ruler earlier, during His Perean ministry (Matt 19:23-24; Mark 10:23-26; Luke 18:24-26).
- The Scriptures do not mention Judas Iscariot coughing up the bread morsel that Jesus gave him, but that is a fitting scene in the movie.
- Another moving scene not from the Bible is the encounter of Jesus with Barabbas a few days prior to Jesus’ arrest. Barabbas insolently and somewhat sarcastically challenges Jesus to lead a rebellion against Rome, but Jesus declines and then calmly silences Barabbas.
- It shows the traditional three falls of Jesus while carrying His cross. However, the Gospels do not record Jesus falling even one time. He may have fallen, but the Gospels do not record it (Matt 27:31-33; Mark 15:20-22; Luke 23:26-33; John 19:17-18).
- It has the traditional scene of Jesus’ mother, Mary, running up to Him after His first fall and a woman wiping Jesus’ face after the third fall. The Gospels do not mention these events. An extra-biblical legend names the woman Veronica and says that Jesus’ image miraculously appeared on her cloth. The name “Veronica” comes from the Latin words vera icon (“true icon”). It is not wise to add non-biblical legends to the biblical account of Jesus.
- As did Gibson’s movie, this movie adds the touching pietà scene Michelangelo masterfully carved into marble. This beautiful statue of Mary cradling the dead body of her son is in St. Peter’s cathedral today.
The movie’s inaccuracies, however, are mostly in minor details and do not detract from the overall positive story and message. The “Son of God” is an excellent, well-acted, spiritually moving, evangelistic movie about the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus that Christians across all denominations should support. A positive response at the box office can send a strong message to Hollywood that Christians want to see this kind of uplifting, positive, and biblical film. Also, “Son of God” can be an effective evangelistic tool to get the non-Christian viewer to read the book (the Bible), and more importantly: to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord. He truly is the Son of God.
- William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, and Floyd E. Hosmer, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” JAMA (3-21-1986):1459. ↩
Christian pastors find themselves in an odd position today. There isn’t really a clear model of how to engage the broader public conversation about morals, laws, cultural developments and the spirit of the age. Not many of the young and restless crowd aspire to be culture warriors, and the Moral Majority looms large in the thinking of many. But while many younger pastors know how they don’t want to get involved, few have a positive vision for public engagement.
So here are a few quick thoughts on why pastors should carefully but convictionally speak up about broader issues.
1. The church body needs wisdom to live well in a fallen world.
The Christian church exists to serve wisdom and truth to a world starving for both. TWEET This ministry is grounded in the proclamation of the Word of God. But preaching from an ancient text does not mean that the pulpit is sealed off from present realities. Rather, ancient wisdom collides with modern crises, equipping believers to image Christ in a world entranced with salvific knock-offs. Pastors are those appointed to mediate guidance to their people and thus enable the church body as a whole to be “salt and light,” per Matthew 5:13-16.
2. The secular culture needs to hear from the true culture.
I am borrowing from Stanley Hauerwas here, who has made the provocative point that the church needs to stop yearning to be like the world. Too often, we lose sight of who we are in Christ because our eyes have wandered and we covet the identity of fallen sinners or cultures. Pastors are appointed by God to help their people see that the church walks in the light and all others in darkness. TWEET We, the “in Christ” people, are the true culture (John 14:6). We say this without arrogance, but with a sense of surprise. God has shown mercy to us, and so we may show it to fellow sinners.
The church tastes true delight, and the world only samples a counterfeit. TWEET Pastors cannot help but pull the mask off of worldly thinking and harmful societal developments as they preach and teach and disciple. To riff off of Tim Keller, pastors must practice a two-fold program of cultural engagement: deconstruction and demystification of cultural idols, and reconstruction and re-enchantment of a gospel-shaped worldview. This will surely involve interacting with and critiquing our fallen world.
3. Believers have historically been change agents because of strong pulpits.
Behind the proto-free market of Geneva was the interest-denouncing homiletics of John Calvin. Behind the world-defying political advocacy of William Wilberforce was the world-defying, sin-targeting preaching of John Newton. Behind the abolitionist activity of the nineteenth-century “New Divinity” in New England was the theocentric worldview of Jonathan Edwards, which comprehended all of life as within the purchase and mission of God and his people. Behind the Hitler-defying witness of the Confessing Church of 1940s Germany was the courageous pulpit ministry of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In these and countless other examples, believers were propelled into the public square as evangelists and change agents. Evangelicals are too timid today. We don’t often study our own inspiring public square heritage, and we don’t apply it to our own day. If we will do so, however, we will find fresh faith, and derive fresh confidence in the power of God to unleash flourishing in our world where Satan has spread disease and death.
This is a much broader topic, one that I’ll be teaching on in the Southern Seminary course titled “The Pastor in the Public Square” in conjunction with the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Ky. We’ll tackle these ideas and much more. Come study with R. Albert Mohler Jr. and me as we work through this inspiring and stretching material. Your pastorate may never be the same.
The Pastor in the Public Square course is being offered at the graduate and undergraduate levels and may be eligible for transferable class credit. Southern Seminary will also be offering A Theology of Evangelism with Billy Graham School Dean Adam W. Greenway, also offered at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Learn more about these courses, their class schedules and download the course syllabus here.
Owen Strachan is assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College and executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Risky Gospel is available at all major Christian bookstores.
You may have heard it said that email is dead. But, don’t believe it. According to a report in Harvard Business Review (June 2013), based on a survey of 2,600 workers in the USA, UK, and South Africa, people continue to spend four hours of every working day dealing with e-mail. The reason? They like it, trust it, and find it an effective collaboration tool.
In what is now a string of cases decided by federal judges regarding state laws, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia has struck down Texas’ constitutional amendment defining marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman. After the state legislature presented the amendment in 2005, 76% of Texas voters approved the addition of the amendment to the state constitution.
Judge Garcia immediately stayed his ruling pending an inevitable appeal. This should be quite interesting considering that the man who will be responsible for the appeal, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, is the hands-down favorite to receive the Republican nomination for governor. Abbott will be responsible for filing the appeal while also managing his campaign against likely Democratic nominee Wendy Davis.
This case came about when a lesbian couple filed suit against the state for not recognizing their same-sex marriage performed in Massachusetts in 2009. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram article, the plaintiffs “argued that the state’s gay marriage ban had caused them undue hardship that other married couples do not face. For example, the couple have one child together, but because Texas does not recognize their union, only one parent’s name was allowed on the birth certificate.”
The logic of the names on a birth certificate is quite interesting. Biologically speaking, only one of the women is the mother although it is likely they both wanted to be listed as mothers. This demonstrates how the redefinition of marriage is attempting to separate the relationship completely from any aspect of procreation. Assuming the couple used an anonymous sperm donor as the father, then standard procedure would be to list the woman who gave birth as the mother. A second mother is biologically impossible for the purposes of a birth certificate. It is unclear how this causes undue hardship related to a medical record that is intended to connect a child to his/her biological parents.
While marriage does not require procreation, separating marriage and procreation completely is illogical. Melissa Moschella has recently written that children have a right to know who their biological parents are and a right to a relationship with them. She states:
The biological parent-child relationship is uniquely intimate and comprehensive, at least from the child’s perspective. A child’s relationship to his biological parents is the closest of that child’s human relationships. It is identity-determining. To be born of different parents is to be an entirely different person. This, combined with the observation that receiving proper care is crucial for the child’s current and future well-being, implies that biological parents are the ones with the strongest obligation to ensure that their child is well-cared-for.
When someone makes the claim that they have a right to produce a birth certificate containing two mothers and no father as the biological record of the child’s birth, they undermine the right of the child to know his genetic history. If marriage includes unions other than those between a man and a woman, it undermines the creation ordinance designed to be the avenue of procreation and perpetuation of the human race. This is not an undue hardship placed on the couple by the state. It is Biology 101.
In just the last two months, marriage amendments have been overturned by judicial action in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Texas. Seventeen other states allow same-sex marriage (or are in the process of allowing it). In addition, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder just recently told state attorneys general that they are not obligated to defend traditional marriage laws in court if they do not want to do so.
I tell my classes every semester that our children will grow up with a different understanding of marriage than what we have. I have been fighting and praying that we would be able to stave off the redefinition of marriage. Now it seems that the U.S. Supreme Court will have no choice but to hear these cases and rule on them, potentially providing a new definition of marriage.
Honestly, I am not optimistic about any future SCOTUS rulings; however, we do not place our hope in judges, governors, legislators, or presidents. Instead, our hope is in Jesus Christ, and he has already declared:
Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. (Matthew 19:4-6)
*If you are interested in learning more about how to respond to the campaign to redefine marriage, consider attending the It Takes a Family conference on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, co-hosted by the Ruth Institute and the Land Center for Cultural Engagement, on April 11, 2014. More information and registration is available by clicking here.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on Evan Lenow’s blog site, Ethics as Worship.