Ep 91: The Completion of God’s Mission

What is the new heaven and new earth? Join our final episode as we conclude with the exciting completion of God’s mission. Throughout Revelation, we’ve seen God’s remarkable patience, as well as His continual pursuit of relationships with people. He’s given warnings and admonitions. So, it is no surprise that John reveals the place where God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for he former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

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David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

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If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

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Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Ep 90: The Millennium

What does the millennium mean? Is it a literal 1,000 years when Christ will reign on the earth and Satan will be bound by chains? Is it preparation for the final judgment and Armageddon? Join Dr. Cooper, Dr. Harris, and Dr. Feiser as they discuss Revelation 20 and John’s vision of an angel coming down with a key to the bottomless pit.

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

FacebookWebsiteEmail
Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

FacebookWebsite
David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

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If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

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Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Ep 89: The Expansion of Jesus’ Mission

In Revelation 15 & 16, John sees a great sight that might be described as the beginning of the end. The true worshipers of God declare that the nations will come and worship Him. In spite of the evil experienced through the tumultuous times, God continues to desire more and more people to experience Him. However, it is clear, that only those who do not bear the mark of the beast will have that pleasure. Join Dr. Cooper, Dr. Harris, and Dr. Feiser as they discuss God’s goodness, His warning, and His glory in this Ephesiology podcast.

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

FacebookWebsiteEmail
Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

FacebookWebsite
David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

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If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

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Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Ep 88: The Eternal Gospel

In Revelation 14, John sees the 144,000 again along with an angel who has the eternal gospel. In this Ephesiology podcast, Dr. Cooper, Dr. Feiser, and Dr. Harris dive into the understanding of the gospel and discuss the other two angels as well as the two harvests of the earth. Key to understanding Revelation is the reminder that this is a message to encourage the church to stay on mission, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints.”

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

FacebookWebsiteEmail
Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

FacebookWebsite
David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

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If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

Learn More

Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Ep 87: Jesus, the Dragon, and the Beasts

We are in Revelation 12 looking at the woman and male child as well as the dragon and the beasts. Some fantastic images revealed to John to add to the continued encouragement of the seven churches. Important to the conversation is getting to what the images meant to the first centuries hearers of Revelation. Join Dr. Cooper, Dr. Feiser, and Dr. Harris as they dive into the text to discover what John was saying to his audience.

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

FacebookWebsiteEmail
Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

FacebookWebsite
David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

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If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

Learn More

Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Ep 85: The Two Witnesses

We continue our series on the Book of Revelation with a discussion about the two witnesses and the beast from the bottomless pit (Rev 11). After John is told to continue to prophesy about the many peoples, nations, languages and kings, he sees what might be the continued mission of the church to witness during tumultuous times. Join Dr. Cooper, Dr. Feiser, and Dr. Harris as they discuss this topic and conclude with the seventh trumpet.

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

FacebookWebsiteEmail
Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

FacebookWebsite
David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

FacebookWebsite

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

Learn More

If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

Learn More

Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Ep 84: The Disciples’ Mission

From the seven seals to the seven trumpets, one thing seems clear. The disciples continue to have a mission on earth during tumultuous times. Join Dr. Cooper, Dr. Feiser, and Dr. Harris as they discuss the seals, the little scroll, and what John meant when he was told, “you must again prophesy about many people and nations and languages and kings” (Rev 10:11).

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

FacebookWebsiteEmail
Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

FacebookWebsite
David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

FacebookWebsite

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Have you benefited from the Ephesiology Podcast? Go deeper with a monthly subscription to our Ephesiology Master Classes.

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

Learn More

If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

Learn More

Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Ep 83: The Disciples of Jesus

The seven seals reveal more than simply the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Join us this week on the Ephesiology Podcast as Dr. Feiser, Dr. Harris, and Dr. Cooper discuss what seal 5 reveals about Jesus’ disciples. While the septets (seven seals, trumpets, and bowls) describe the mounting political, economic, and social upheaval, there is hope for those who remain faithful to the word of God and the witness it bears.

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

FacebookWebsiteEmail
Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

FacebookWebsite
David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

FacebookWebsite

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

Learn More

If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

Learn More

Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Ep 82: Jesus is Worthy

The portrait that John paints in the book of Revelation often appears strange and unusual to the modern reader. The living creatures with multiple eyes and wings surrounding the throne can become a distraction from the real scope of Revelation 4 and 5. On today’s podcast, Dr. Harris, Dr. Feiser, and Dr. Cooper dive into the imagery of these two notable chapters and draw our attention to the genuine worship of Jesus. We’ll discover the theocentric and missiological themes highlighted in these chapters and so prevalent through the book. Ultimately, chapters 4 and 5 focus on the throne and the worship of Jesus.

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

FacebookWebsiteEmail
Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

FacebookWebsite
David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

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If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

Learn More

Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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23 Days with St. Victorinus of Pettau

As I look back on my education beginning in grade school all the way through grad school, I must admit that history stood as one of the subjects that I enjoyed the most. I always found it interesting to look back on our past and relish in the descriptions of the golden times historians described; that is, until my second history course in the university. 

My professor for that class had the remarkable ability to make history boring. Now, I know that many think history is dull. After all, who really cares about all those dates and events as they often seem to have little to do with our lives in the present. Well, that professor, unfortunately, compelled me to be a part of that group of us who believe the study of history is indeed a useless pursuit. Even my tedious note taking, recording of his lectures, and listening to them over and over, did absolutely little to raise my final grade in that class from a “C.”

It wasn’t until living in an Orthodox country and ultimately grad school that my interest in history was revived. I became fascinated with the early Christian movement and her growth. Eventually, my interest turned to the writings of the Church Fathers during my doctoral studies. I felt, as I do now, that to really understand the early church, I needed to understand the fathers. So, my doctoral work focused a great deal of attention on those early faithful witnesses of the true doctrines of the church passed down to us.

23 Days with St. Victorinus of Pettau Click To Tweet

One of my doctoral professors, more than any other, spurred my interest even further. Sitting in his lectures and having discussions with him outside of the classroom did as much to compel me to study history as my university professor did to dissuade me. Even after my studies, he continued to encourage me and graciously interacted with me as I pursued my scholarship of the Church Fathers. I am forever grateful to Dr. Thomas C. Oden (1931-2016) and how he built into my life and pursuit of knowledge about the early church. Because of him, I am much more comfortable with identifying myself as paleo-orthodox than as Reformed or Arminian.

Introducing Bishop Victorinus of Pettau

This book is about a third century bishop’s commentary on Revelation. St. Victorinus is a recent discovery of an early Church Father on the shelves of our personal library. He wrote many commentaries on books of the Bible. Unfortunately, what remains are only two of his works: On the Creation of the World and The Commentary on the Apocalypse by the Blessed John. What interests me about Victorinus is that The Commentary on the Apocalypse is the first commentary on Revelation in our possession written by an early Church Father. Others, as we’ll see, have made mention of the vision of John, yet no one attempted a complete work on the book until Victorinus.

We know very little about the bishop’s life. Jerome offers us what might be the most complete historical description of Victorinus and it is not much of an account:

“Victorinus, bishop of Pettau, was not equally familiar with Latin and Greek. On this account his works though noble in thought, are inferior in style. They are the following: Commentaries On Genesis, On Exodus, On Leviticus, On Isaiah, On Ezekiel, On Habakkuk, On Ecclesiastes, On the Song of Songs, On the Apocalypse of John, Against all heresies and many others. At the last he received the crown of martyrdom.” (Lives of Illustrious Men 74)

On his life, context, and the actual writing of his commentary, we will address as we progress through this book. For now, it is of note that Jerome, who was born sometime in the 340sAD in Strido of Dalmatia then later moved to Bethlehem, includes Victorinus among his list of 135 learned people of the church.

"Even though he wrote nearly 1,800 years ago, the one thing I noticed in reading his commentary is how little things really change. Humanity continues to struggle with political, economic, and societal challenges. So, I think there is much we can… Click To Tweet

How to use the Book

The vision for this book is practical, doxological, and theological. Many today think of the study of theology as I once thought of history; either boring or of little benefit to our present lives. This, I’d suggest, is an unfortunate result of the divorce between the head, heart, and hands that are so much a part of a proper pursuit of knowledge; especially knowledge about God. I’m hopeful this book will challenge you to think practically about what it means to be a faithful witness. It should draw you to a worshipful posture as you encounter God in Revelation. Finally, I hope your love for theology, the study of God, will inspire you to live out your faithful witness among others.

To provide context, each chapter begins with a reminder to read the corresponding chapter in the book of Revelation. At the end of each chapter is a section on personal reflection. Some of these questions are weighty, others less so. I hope you’ll use them to think more deeply about what we might learn from Victorinus. Even though he wrote nearly 1,800 years ago, the one thing I noticed in reading his commentary is how little things really change. Humanity continues to struggle with political, economic, and societal challenges. So, I think there is much we can learn from a bishop in the early church.

You might be tempted to read this volume rather quickly as it is a good airplane book. You can easily finish it on a flight of a couple hours. Or, you can thoughtfully engage the material over the next 23 days as a devotional book taking your time to work through Victorinus’ exposition on Revelation. I hope you’ll attempt the former. And even if you do the latter, I trust you’ll return to the book to reflect more deeply on the implications for your personal life and witness.

The book would also be a great tool for a small group Bible study or house church. While you might not want to spend 23 weeks studying Revelation, you could easily incorporate seven reflection topics each week for a four-week study while encouraging participants to use the book for their daily devotions.

Evangelicals are notorious for only looking back to the last 500 years for our history. What often escapes us is the fact that the Reformers contemplated the Church Fathers to find their anchor for Christianity of the 16th century. Click To Tweet

Go more Deeply

The study of Revelation has occupied a significant portion of my time during the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020-2021. Such a global spreading of a virus that claimed the lives of nearly three million people naturally draws our attention to other historic plagues. Matt Till and I wrote about this in a small book on plagues in the early years of Christianity and how that church grew in spite of them (Cooper and Till, 2020). Yet, reading about the plagues in the Roman Empire also makes me aware of how technology and medical advances have given us a remarkable ability to address such pandemics.

Even so, a plague combined with ongoing political, economic, and societal unrest certainly draws our attention to the end times. For that reason, as well as for a growing percentage of Christians around the world, even among evangelicals, who believe that Jesus is not God nor the Bible is the word of God, Revelation is an important text to consider. It not only claims to be inspired, but it also clearly reveals the glorious resurrected Christ to paint a portrait of Jesus-as-He-truly-is.

If you would like to go more deeply in your understanding of the book of Revelation, please consider our online study entitled Rediscover Jesus through Revelation. You can find more information at masterclasses.ephesiology.com/courses/rediscover-jesus. In this 10-week study, you’ll discover what it means to be a disciple of Jesus living in challenging times. You’ll see the mission of Jesus’ disciples along with the gospel they proclaimed. I hope you’ll also discover some of this in the book that is in your hand now.

Evangelicals and History

Evangelicals are notorious for only looking back to the last 500 years for our history. What often escapes us is the fact that the Reformers contemplated the Church Fathers to find their anchor for Christianity of the 16th century. If there were ever to be a serious contemporary reformation, it must do the same. The history of evangelicalism doesn’t begin with Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others. It begins with Justin, Origen, Tertullian, and Bishop Victorinus. It is to that third century bishop with his concern for the churches in his care that we now turn. 

I hope by the end of this book, you will be encouraged and challenged as a faithful witness to follow in the steps of Bishop Victorinus and the third century church.

Join Us for a Deeper Study of Revelation

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Ep 81: What’s It All About?

In today’s podcast, Dr. Harris, Dr. Feiser, and Dr. Cooper dive into more questions about Revelation to help us figure out what it is about. Beginning with the fantastic description of John’s Jesus (Rev 1:12-18), we’ll discuss the cultural issues confronting the seven churches in Asia Minor (Rev 2-3) and conclude with the reason why John writes Revelation. Join us for another episode in our ongoing series, “Rediscover Jesus through Revelation.”

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

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David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

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If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

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Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Ep 80: Who Wrote Revelation?

In today’s podcast, Dr. Harris, Dr. Feiser, and Dr. Cooper dive into the introductory matters for the book of Revelation. What type of literature is Revelation? Who wrote it? When was it written, and from where? What are the various themes in the book? All of these and more are discussed as we develop a framework for understanding John’s revelation.

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

FacebookWebsiteEmail
Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

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David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Have you benefited from the Ephesiology Podcast? Go deeper with a monthly subscription to our Ephesiology Master Classes.

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

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If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

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Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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Ep 79: Interpreting Revelation

Revelation is one of the most difficult books in the Bible to interpret and it is also one of the most abused and ignored books of the Bible. In this first session on our series focused on rediscovering Jesus through Revelation, Dr. Feiser, Dr. Harris, and Dr. Cooper discuss four interpretative strategies used to understand Revelation: Historicist, Idealist, Preterist, and Futurist.

Michael T. Cooper
Professor of Missiological Theology

Dr. Cooper is an executive in a missions organization where he focuses on training and empowering local believers and church leaders in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and catalyzing church planting movements in the most difficult to reach places on the planet. He is also the program director for the Master of Arts Missiology of Movements at Mission India Theological Seminary and the author of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

FacebookWebsiteEmail
Donald Patrick Harris
Professor of Spiritual Formation

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate of ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is a Christian thinker and communicator, church missions consultant and spiritual mentor. After four years as the director of missions at Sherwood Bible Church, Don spent the next 25 years church planting and training church planters in the Czech Republic. His foci are congregational — organizational—health, and Christian leadership development. 

FacebookWebsite
David D. Feiser
Pastor, Round Hill EPC

A graduate of Penn State, Pastor Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies at Palmer Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, and then to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, where he received a Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology. His dissertation was a theology of proclamation, aiming to help the local church use not only preaching, but the sacraments and living out one's faith in the world as means of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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For more resources on Rediscover Jesus Through Revelation, please check out the free online study and join others in a conversation about discipling our children.

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Have you benefited from the Ephesiology Podcast? Go deeper with a monthly subscription to our Ephesiology Master Classes.

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If you are going to shape today’s dreamers into tomorrow’s leaders who multiply Christ-followers and lead God-glorifying movements then your journey starts here. Let us show you the way.

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Discover how the Holy Spirit still changes lives, cities, and the world in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement.

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It’s About Jesus

In 1522, Martin Luther made his final assessment on the book of Revelation by stating, “Finally, let everyone think of it as his own spirit leads him. My spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book. For me this is reason enough not to think highly of it: Christ is neither taught nor known in it. But to teach Christ, this is the thing.” It is a striking statement about the only book in the New Testament which claims to be inspired (Rev 1:1-2; 22:6), and comes with both a blessing (Rev 1:3) and a warning (Rev 22:18).

Day 1 of 22 – Easter in Revelation: It's About Jesus Click To Tweet

Over the course of the next 22 days, we journey through what is most likely the very first expositional commentary on Revelation. Written at the end of the third century by Victorinus, bishop of Pettau (in modern day Slovenia), Revelation is called an Easter epistle by his translator as it so clearly speaks of the resurrected Christ, Jesus-as-He-truly-is, contrary to Luther’s view. 

We do not know much about Victorinus’ life. We know that he lived during a dark period of the Roman Empire when Christians were severely persecuted under Roman emperors. During Diocletian’s reign (284-305AD) for example, places of worship were destroyed, and Christians were murdered. In one instance, the deacon of a church in Antioch had his tongue removed for teaching against sacrifices. The church historian Eusebius describes the era like this:

“It was the nineteenth year of Diocletian’s reign [AD 303] and the month Dystrus, called March by the Romans, and the festival of the Saviour’s Passion was approaching, when an imperial decree was published everywhere, ordering the churches to be razed to the ground and the Scriptures destroyed by fire, and giving notice that those in places of honour would lose their places, and domestic staff, if they continued to profess Christianity, would be deprived of their liberty. Such was the first edict against us. Soon afterwards other decrees arrived in rapid succession, ordering that the presidents of the churches in every place should all be first committed to prison and then coerced by every possible means into offering sacrifice.” (History of the Church 8.2)

It was during this period that Victorinus also “received the crown of martyrdom” as Jerome would later write in his On Illustrious Men placing Victorinus among the great saints of the early church like Papias, Polycarp, and Ignatius.

However, for Victorinus, there is no doubt that Revelation is about Jesus Christ and we rightly spend time reading and listening to it as we prepare for Easter Sunday. Click To Tweet

Victorinus might have been motivated persecutions to write about Revelation as it speaks directly to the church in times of political, economic, and societal turmoil. Whatever his motivation, his purpose is clear. He wants his readers to remain faithful to Christ who he describes this way when commenting on Rev 1:4: 

He is, because He endures continually; He was, because with the Father He made all things, and has at this time taken a beginning from the Virgin; He is to come, because assuredly He will come to judgment.” 

I’m not sure what the 16th century Reformer was thinking. Perhaps he had been influenced by others who did not see value in Revelation. It is certainly a confusing book and often misinterpreted. As G.K. Chesterton remarked, “though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.” However, for Victorinus, there is no doubt that Revelation is about Jesus Christ and we rightly spend time reading and listening to it as we prepare for Easter Sunday.

What do you think? Add your comments below.

As G.K. Chesterton remarked, “though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.” Click To Tweet

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Are White Evangelicals Really the Problem?

Much has been written in recent days about “white evangelicals” and there is just as much emotion conjured up when seeing the term. Those on the political right are often offended by the moniker as it attacks their truncated theological heritage. Those on the political left use it as a power word against a theologically aberrant ideology. Indifferent of the emotion, the now pejorative moniker has been weaponized against politically conservative, Trump supporters who are believed to have radicalized evangelicalism into a Christian nationalism, complete with white supremacy overtones, that dangerously resembles the pre-WWII nationalism of Germany. No matter where you fall, it is evident that the racialization of evangelicalism has indeed stirred passions and highlights the acute division among American evangelicals.

No matter where you fall, it is evident that the racialization of evangelicalism has indeed stirred passions and highlights the acute division among American evangelicals. Click To Tweet

While all Christians should vigorously denounce any deviation from a New Testament understanding of following Christ, those condemning white evangelicals strikes as the “pot calling the kettle black.” That is to say, no matter if you are a progressive evangelical who denies the infallibility of Scripture, like Pastor Josh Scott who leads a staff including LGBTQ+ at GracePointe in Nashville, or a white evangelical who argued that “true believers” will vote for Trump, like the Reformed Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, there is enough shared culpability in the deviant theological evolution of evangelicalism in this country to go around.

In his recent Religion News opinion piece, Doug Pagitt rightly calls evangelicals to unite against the heresy of Christian nationalism as well as against white supremacy. He appeals to all evangelicals, no matter their political leanings, to join him in signing the Evangelical Leaders Statement Condemning Christian Nationalism’s Role in the January 6th Insurrection. With a growing list of what Pagitt calls evangelical luminaries, the statement highlights the now stereotypic description of white evangelicals and their implicitly-frequently explicitly-racist views.  

While all Christians should rightly condemn any deviation from a New Testament understanding of following Christ, those condemning white evangelicals strikes as the “pot calling the kettle black.” Click To Tweet

I appreciate the efforts of those who developed the statement. Such a statement is long overdue. However, in my view, this statement simply substitutes a “radicalized Christian nationalism” for a more palatable American civil religion. It begs the question of who is deciding the content of this new American civil religion, particularly its theological and political ideologies. Even more, how long will it take before the new American civil religion radicalizes into a new Christian nationalism? The old aphorism is true, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

While I applaud and support the condemnation of Christian nationalism and white supremacy, as well as the call to actions concomitant with Christlikeness, the statement still propagates a Christianity that seems foreign to Scripture. It is a form of Christianized Americanism or Americanized Christianism (Gorman 2011) that is democratic, revisionist, and patriotic. As a political ideology, this is not bad or wrong if your allegiance is to the state. It just is not the Christianity of the New Testament.

19% of Black men and 6% of Black women, and 36% of Hispanic men and 30% of Hispanic women supported Trump in 2020. Among Asian and other ethnic Americans, 38% supported Trump. According to Edison Research, Trump support among minorities and white women grew while it nominally declined among white males.

Christian Extremism

The form of extremism described by Pagitt  and many others is not new. You can trace it very easily to the African Berber theologian Augustine and his justification for violence to convert heretics and others who did not agree with the opinion du jour, particularly his opinion. For Augustine, the use of political force (manifested in the military actions of the Roman Empire) was justifiable when it served the greater good. This line of theological rationalism runs throughout history from justifying an untold number of religious wars in Europe during the Middle Ages, to Luther’s antisemitism, even to the Calvinist violence against the Anabaptists for their apolitical pacifism (among other things). 

This entire line of theological rationalism runs throughout history justifying an untold number of religious wars in Europe during the Middle Ages, to Luther’s antisemitism, as well as the Calvinist violence against the Anabaptists for their… Click To Tweet

In modern times, the extremism is most noted in Adolf Hitler’s appeal to Luther as the German theologian and his call to make Germany great again. U.S. history has not been immune to this extremism either. The “black robe regiment,” that group of pro-America clergy who led their congregants to war against the British, justified their actions as God ordained. In more recent history, George W. Bush’s appeal to Bonhoeffer in his argument for the war on terror only highlights the Christian penchant to justify violence by invoking theologians. Eric Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer has only perpetuated this deceptive misreading of Bonhoeffer’s involvement in tyrannicide. 

Eric Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer has only perpetuated this deceptive misreading of Bonhoeffer’s involvement in tyrannicide. Click To Tweet

Disconnection from Our Heritage

It seems to me the issue is much deeper than what is described in Pagitt’s article about white evangelicals. The problem, in my opinion, is an evangelical church disconnected from her heritage in the theology of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Origen. Justin (100-165AD), in the face of state persecution, acknowledged the important role of the government to ensure that Christians obeyed the law. Tertulian (155-240AD) saw that Christian political allegiance was idolatrous. Additionally, Origen (184-253AD) argued that Christians had a more “diviner” calling than politics: the spread of the good news of God. For all three early church theologians, God’s glory, not political ambition, animated the life of the Christian. 

Is the problem white evangelicalism? Perhaps, in part, although I’m increasingly doubtful that racializing evangelicalism is the solution (a much better moniker than “white evangelical” might be Trumpgelical). White Americans definitely have an uncomfortable history they must confront; a history that justified the mistreatment of others based on a misguided understanding of the Bible. Additionally, the narratives of the American Dream and American Exceptionalism must be critiqued. Nevertheless, the root of the problem for American evangelicalism is the fact that it is a Christianity unmoored from its heritage and an evangelicalism with a chronic historical amnesia. 

White Americans definitely have an uncomfortable history they must confront; a history that justified the mistreatment of others based on a misguided understanding of the Bible. The narratives of the American Dream and American Exceptionalism… Click To Tweet

Learn more about the Church’s identity in When Evangelicals Sneeze: Curing the American Church from the Plague of Identity Loss

Seven Sins of American Evangelical Civil Religion

The imagery and symbols are clear. Church and state have never truly been separated in the United States. From its inception, the marriage of religion and politics has been a powerful force to unite pundits around political ideologies. It doesn’t matter if the ideologies are conservative or liberal, invoking faith during an inaugural address or political photo-op is simply a part of the ethos of the American civil religion. The power of an appeal to the divine for the political ambitions of an empire, even a republic, is something as old as religion itself.

The infamous photo-op in front of St. John’s Church, the so-called church of the presidents

There are consequences to such an appeal, particularly when a faith tradition like Christianity originally made no claim to a political identity. Indeed, the early Christians were motivated by the mission of God rather than distracted by political ambition. The end result, as we know, was persecution as they were seen as a threat to the Roman Empire. Elizabeth McNamer recounts, “The anti‐Christian writer Celsus (about 178 CE) warned Christians of the perils of their lack of civic sense and of their disloyalty to an empire from which they derived many material benefits” (The Case for Bethsaida after Twenty Years of Digging, 113). Even so, the early Christians maintained their distance from politics. Origen, writing in defense of Christianity against the assertion of Celsus, argued:

Origen of Alexandria (184-253AD)

“And it is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices, but that they may reserve themselves for a diviner and more necessary service in the Church of God—for the salvation of people. And this service is at once necessary and right. They take charge of all—of those that are within, that they may day by day lead better lives, and of those that are without, that they may come to abound in holy words and in deeds of piety; and that, while thus worshipping God truly, and training up as many as they can in the same way, they may be filled with the word of God and the law of God, and thus be united with the Supreme God through His Son the Word, Wisdom, Truth, and Righteousness, who unites to God all who are resolved to conform their lives in all things to the law of God.” (Against Celsus 8.75

Indeed, the early Christians were motivated by the mission of God rather than distracted by political ambition. Click To Tweet

In spite of the testimony of the early church, many American evangelicals today idolize the notion of God and country. Both Democrat and Republican evangelicals believe their patriotic duty is propagating their ideology as it is clearly best for the nation. Politicians appealing to their Christian pundits, such as in President Biden’s inaugural address or former President Trump’s holding of a Bible in front of a church, couch their rhetoric in religious language and symbols that solidify respective ideologies and political bases. Such rhetoric exacerbates tensions among brothers and sisters who profess Christ yet are attracted to a perceived Christian political duty that unwittingly creates multiple manifestations of the American civil religion. As Michael Gorman noted,

“What makes American civil religion particularly seductive is that it borrows so heavily from Christianity; its reinterpretation of the dominant religious tradition(s) does not produce the syncretism of polytheistic paganism but the syncretism of Christianized Americanism or Americanized Christianism. This form of religiosity is so pervasive that we would not be wrong to contend that if America’s original sin vis-à-vis others is racism, as Martin Luther King claimed, then its original sin vis-à-vis God is civil religion.” (Reading Revelation Responsibly, loc 1411)

The consequences of an American civil religion cannot be underestimated; especially where it has impacted American evangelicalism to such a degree that the church has lost her witness in society. The unfortunate reality we face is one that is not discussed as we are too busy blaming the other for wrongdoing. As Jesus said, we are more concerned for the speck in the other’s eye than for the plank in our own (Matt 7:5). Pure and simple, we evangelicals have sinned against each other as we propagate our own versions of an American evangelical civil religion. It seems to me, unless we acknowledge our complicity, repent from it, and work toward forgiveness and reconciliation, the lamp stand of the American evangelical church will indeed be taken away without discrimination between evangelicals who align either as a Democrat or Republican.

The unfortunate reality we face is one that is not discussed as we are too busy blaming the other for wrongdoing. As Jesus said, we are more concerned for the speck in the others eye than for the plank in our own (Matt 7:5). Click To Tweet

The Seven Sins

The consequences, namely our sins against each other, manifest in the marriage between faith and politics. The seven sins of the American evangelical civil religion are at the same time descriptors of the religion as well as a critique. The sins reflect what Gorman described as the two fundamental failings of Christianity in America: “the one horizontal (people to people), the other vertical (people to God).” In no particular order, it seems to me that the sins include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Weak understanding of discipleship – the conflation of being an American and being a Christian has undermined the true cost of allegiance to Christ alone (Matt 19:20-21).
  2. Political Tribalism – polarization between perceived patriots and non-patriots, in-group and out-group, us and them (Col 3:11) .
  3. Allegiance to the country and to God are inseparable – it is at best syncretistic and at worse heretical–if there is a difference between the two (Matt 6:24).
  4. No desire to reach the nations with the gospel. Instead, a tribal-centric focus on American exceptionalism, however it is defined by the political tribe, is the hope for the world. “Lead by example” whether politically (including militarily), economically, or socially, and the world will follow (Matt 28:18-20).
  5. A people more committed to prescribing morality or combating systemic injustice than to relating ethically to their neighbor like Jesus. In both cases, the state (animated by tribal ideology) legislates the solution to the people’s problems as defined by the political tribe rather than living like the body of Christ which inherently defends the faith, stands in the gap for justice, and proclaims the gospel (Rev 2:1-7).
  6. Value rights over sacrifice – “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is viewed as God ordained versus “it has been granted to you for Christ’s sake not only to believe in Him but also suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29) as the true inalienable right of a Christ-follower. 
  7. When there is sacrifice, the greatest is in service to country for protecting tribally defined and God ordained rights – this creates a false sense of eternal hope for causalities of the tribal cause. In this sense, it is messianically eschatological as it views a national ideology as the savior or liberator of the other, the country, even the world. As such, the national ideology, not Jesus, is the hope for the future of the country (John 6:40).

The ultimate consequence of these seven sins is an impotent church at war with God, cultural others, and with ourselves. Unfortunately, this war leaves a battlefield of dead and dying souls who will no longer listen to the American evangelical church’s distorted gospel that would be unrecognizable to the early church of Origen’s day. Dietrich Bonhoeffer aptly summarizes the need for a different Christian perspective:

“Jesus releases his community from the political and legal order,… and makes it into what it truly is, namely, the community of faithful that is not bound by political or national ties.” (Discipleship, 102-103)

"Jesus releases his community from the political and legal order,… and makes it into what it truly is, namely, the community of faithful that is not bound by political or national ties." – Dietrich Bonhoeffer Click To Tweet

If we properly understanding Jesus it will lead us to be humans who act like Jesus and gather us in a community focused on Jesus’ mission rather than on politics.

Learn more about the Church’s identity in When Evangelicals Sneeze: Curing the American Church from the Plague of Identity Loss

Hang On! It’s going to be another bumpy four years!!

Sitting on the credenza behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office is the bust of Latino civil rights leader César Chávez. Other leaders of the movement decorating the most powerful place on the planet—Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Robert F. Kennedy—give a clear signal to the 46th US president’s agenda for America. Among his first acts as POTUS, President Biden signed an executive order on “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” Among the order’s mandates, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.” The executive order met with exuberant joy from the left and harsh criticism from the right (#BidenErasedWomen). In a real sense, such action is not surprising in a liberal democracy (i.e. Western democracy) focused on the elusive quest for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” by many who are socially marginalized.

In a real sense, such action is not surprising in a liberal democracy focused on the elusive quest for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” by many who are socially marginalized. Click To Tweet

At the heart of the executive order is an apparent association with Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality (CRT/I). Not that CRT/I are responsible for the president’s executive order, they certainly contribute to a milieu focused on challenging, “the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law” (Delgado and Stefancic, 2017:loc 131). The CRT notion of Intersectionality rightly recognizes that identity is complex. Joel Modiri notes, “It is thus crucial to examine how the intersection of race, gender, class, nationality, sexual orientation, religious and cultural beliefs, (dis)ability and other identity locations induce multiple forms of discrimination and oppression” (2012:418). While the president’s executive order is a contemporary example of an attempt to curb the discrimination inherent in the intersection of identities, it also exposes a strategy to legislate a new morality. In such a climate, Christians are left to wonder how to respond.

Unfortunately, the church of the 21st century has been threatened by saltlessness. Her witness in America is often usurped by the desire for power, and shamed by the growing compromise of her leaders. Unwittingly led by an increasingly impotent Christology, the church tends to confuse cultural engagement with the exertion of influence over political, economic, and societal systems that favor a form of Christlikeness made in the image of a myopic appeal to the American dream that is completely foreign to the first century disciples. How can the church stand in the gap for injustice without the testimony of Christ as her sole anchor? His love, humility, and reconciling work form the foundation for any engagement of culture. 

Unwittingly led by an increasingly impotent Christology, the church tends to confuse cultural engagement with the exertion of influence over political, economic, and societal systems that favor a form of Christlikeness made in the image of a… Click To Tweet

The Church and Social Transformation

In the absence of a coherent strategy for social transformation, we suggest a missiologically theocentric framework as a path forward. Such a framework begins with God’s mission, manifests in a radical discipleship that looks like Jesus, and acts in a community of saints who inherently address injustice as ethical humans. To be ethical, according to the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is to make God known as good by risking to live like Jesus. By extension, the church (the community of saints acting ethically with all humans) is God’s instrument to bring social transformation. Neither political, or economic, not even societal systems can bring this kind of sustainable, and peaceful change; nor can an executive order of a president. It has never worked and it never will. 

The church, however, exercising a proper ecclesiology focused on Christ—more than any political, economic or societal institution—is uniquely positioned to identify racism, classism, and related issues of intersectionality.  The very actions of Christ must lead the church to critique current cultural contexts and assess them in light of Christianity’s clarion call for unity among diversity (Eph 2:11-22), measured economic stability (1 Tim 6:8-10; 17-19), and necessary care for those on the margins (Gal 2:10).

To be ethical, according to the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is to make God known as good by risking to live like Jesus. By extension, the church (the community of saints acting ethically with all humans) is God’s instrument to bring… Click To Tweet

At the same time, there are clear Scriptural calls for the church’s uniqueness in society as a beacon of true humanity; that is, the expression of the God-become-human, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 11:1). Such a humanity recognizes that we all bear God’s image, and that God created us, male and female (Gen 1:27). He has imbued us with certain abilities that are at the same time complementarian and egalitarian in nature.

Our ethical posture, Bonhoeffer’s idea of “I relate ethically to others, ergo sum,” then must come from seeking the well-being of all humans. It dispenses with power dynamics that pit one group against another. Instead, its posture is as a servant, laying down personal rights and willingly taking on responsibility for the well-being of the other; even standing in the other’s place to share her pain from oppression, and frustration from discrimination. It vicariously bears the guilt of a society for the effects of bias, whether implicit or explicit, and it strives to reconcile all things in Christ as an expression of the mystery of the gospel (Eph 1:10). This ethical nature creates space to give voice to the voiceless, unity in the unique expressions of identities, co-equality in mutual submission, and stays focused on God’s mission while standing on level ground in its shared responsibility mandated by Christ himself to make disciples of all peoples (Matt 28:19-20).

Instead, its posture is as a servant, laying down personal rights and willingly taking on responsibility for the well-being of the other, even standing in the other’s place to share her pain from oppression, and frustration from discrimination. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

The actions of POTUS portend the next four years in the United States. Similar action has already occurred in many countries around the world exposing a global moral vacuum. The church’s inability to recognize clear social realities has invited social philosophies like CRT/I to fill that void and we shouldn’t be surprised. Until we have a cohesive and coherent path forward to genuine social transformation, the church will continue to be on the margin of any significant change. So, hang on. Here we go. Another bumpy four years!

Adapted from the forthcoming book: Social Injustice II: Evangelical Voices in Tumultuous Times. Join our mailing list to be among the first to hear about the book’s release in April 2021.

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Learn more about the Church’s identity in When Evangelicals Sneeze: Curing the American Church from the Plague of Identity Loss

A Day After Christmas in Revelation

The Christian movement in Asia Minor is a wonderful example of a group of churches and APEST leaders who took doctrine and morality seriously. Writing to a few of these churches in Ephesus less than four decades after Paul’s initial engagement of people in the city began (Acts 19), Jesus applauded them for the good ministry they were doing. However, their ministry was far from His expectations, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had a first” (Rev 2:4). It is a perplexing comment, especially since we read about the churches’ diligently working to combat false teachers and sexual immorality (1 Timothy 1-6).

In the context of the book of Revelation, false prophets (Rev 16:13; 19:20; 20:10) and sexual immorality (Rev 9:21; 14:8; 17:2, 4; 18:3, 9; 19:2; 21:8; 22:15) factor prominently in the midst of political, economic, and societal turmoil. It would be reasonable to suggest that demonstrating an aversion to such issues and even addressing them straight up in the church and culture would indicate the church’s love for Christ. However, according to Jesus, the difference between what these churches were doing and what He expected them to do stood significantly distinct from one another. The churches in Ephesus had abandoned their first love!

One thing, though, is clear: whatever their first love was, Jesus demanded that they get it back, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rev 2:5). The good works for which Christ commends them is qualitatively different from the good work that is the love of Christ. As I have suggested, if a missionary understanding of Revelation is at the core of John’s prophecy, and that prophecy is focused on every tribe, nation, people, and language worshiping God (Rev 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 14:6; 15:4), then the Ephesian’s first love must somehow be tied to the work of uniting all things in Christ (Eph 1:10).

As Paul taught in Ephesians 1, God’s will is singular and clear, and the church is chosen and predestined in love to share in the responsibility of His will by declaring the mystery of Christ (Eph 1:4-5; 3:9-10). It is also clear that Jesus’ warning of taking away the church’s lampstand is a euphemism for the removal of the church’s witness in the society as it would no longer be permitted to represent the light of the world (John 8:12). The apostle of love is unambiguous: the church’s first priority is to love Christ. A repeated theme throughout his gospel, he obviously understands what Jesus intends for the Ephesians; indeed, what He intends for His church.

As John told those in Ephesus in the Fourth Gospel, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In fact, the love of Christ for us is the model by which we are to love. That sacrificial love which focused on God’s glorification is a love that compels us to tell His story to others so that they see how God relentlessly pursues them. The love that Christ speaks about, the love that the Ephesians abandoned, is a work by which we, just as John heard from Jesus in Peter’s restoration, are called to tend and feed those who are his, both those present and those future members of the flock (John 21:15-17). 

Michaela and I were having another one of our great theological conversations. They are getting increasingly rare, not due to a lack of desire, but rather to her life work as a social worker currently in the Baltimore public school system. Nevertheless, as I was studying Revelation, she was attending a Bible study on the book. One evening we spoke about what she was learning and her thoughts seemed to ring true. Reflecting on Rev 7:17 and 21:4, she commented, “Daddy, I believe the tears that Jesus will wipe away are due to the fact that we will recognize all the people we did not share Christ with and realize that they will be eternally separated from us and God.” An absolutely tragic thought. Can you imagine a world without those loved ones – family, friends, even neighbors and colleagues – knowing we had a sacred duty to share the gospel with them and did not? 

We are getting closer to the streets of gold as the church continues on her mission. Today, as near as we can tell, two-thirds of the global population does not know Christ and 2.1 billion people are completely outside the reach of the gospel, a number that is increasing daily as the population continues to swell. Additionally, nearly 6 million people representing 269 distinct ethnic groups living in their homelands have never been contacted by a missionary. These people have stories of searching for a God they do not know. The Holy Spirit is at work among them, yet they do not see Him. Now, the church must fulfill her responsibility to make God’s story known.

A movement of God is happening in the world today. He will accomplish His mission as John prophesied (Rev 10:11). The question for us is, will we demonstrate our love for Christ by joining God in his mission to see every tribe, nation, language, and people worship him? A good challenge for us to consider as we move into a new year. I hope you’ll take the time this week between Christmas 2020 and New Year 2021 to reflect on the challenge that God has placed before us.

Adapted from Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement. Learn more about what propelled the first century church to phenomenal growth.

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The Lesser of Two Evils and God’s Sovereignty

I believe in God’s sovereignty, not in a fatalistic way or a double predestination one. Rather, God superintends His creation in such a manner to ensure that His will is completed. The Book of Revelation gives us a picture of the completion of that will:

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9)

This beautiful mosaic of God’s tapestry of creatures portrays a cacophony of people united together in worship of Him. The completion of God’s will also involves His people who have been predestined and blessed to join with Him to see all things united in Christ (Eph 1:10). At the same time, God sovereignly works in other ways to guarantee the outcome He foretold through the apostle John.

What we believe about God will determine how we live your lives. As Millard Erickson put it in Christian Theology, “One’s view of God might even be thought of as supplying the whole framework within which one’s theology is constructed and life is lived. It lends a particular coloration to one’s style of ministry and philosophy of life” (1984:263). We clearly see this idea lived out in the apostle Paul in his letters to the Ephesians and Timothy.

Attributes of God in Missiological Theism (Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement, pp. 80-81)

One of the ways that God works to complete His will is through the establishment of governments. Paul, writing in the context of the Roman Empire, but not quite yet under the subjugation of a crazed Emperor Nero, says that indeed God does institute authorities for the good of Christians as well as to maintain order in society (Rom 13:1-7). A few years before he wrote to the churches in Rome, Paul instructed Timothy to teach the churches in Ephesus to pray for political leaders in order to ensure a peaceful life with the freedom to share the gospel since God, “desires all people to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4).

Paul believed in God’s sovereignty over governments for the sole purpose of fulfilling God’s will. However, this did not leave the Christian with an excuse to be passive. Absolutely not! Paul was crystal clear in his instructions for the churches in Ephesus:

  1. You are to proclaim the gospel (1 Tim 1:12-2:7; 3:14-16).
  2. You are to correct false teaching (1 Tim 1:3-7; 4:1-5).
  3. You are to stand in the gap for the marginalized (1 Tim 2:8-15; 5:1-16).

Paul was not waiting for the government to take action. He took action because he was fully convinced that Christians had a role to play in joining with God on His mission. He didn’t call for protests against the Roman government. He didn’t call the church to take to the streets to demand justice. Instead, he called followers of Christ to enact Kingdom justice manifested in the proclamation of the gospel, the correction of false teaching, and the action against social injustice.

Headlines after the first 2020 Presidential Debate tell all: “Embarrassing,” “Debate Debacle,” “Amazing Disgrace,” “Chaos in Cleveland.” If the debate revealed anything, it revealed that Americans have a choice between the lesser of two evils. With what appeared to be an affirmation of Antifa by Biden and the Proud Boys by Trump, the country will continue to face uncertain times as division becomes increasingly acute. However, for the Christian, the debate provides an opportunity to reflect on what we truly believe about God’s sovereignty.

So, after the first 2020 Presidential Debate, I conclude with the following questions: If I genuinely believe that God sovereignly establishes a government as Paul seems to infer in Rom 13:1, is it not arrogant for me to think that my vote will somehow sway God’s sovereignty? Or does my vote somehow make me a participant in God’s sovereign establishment of the government? If the latter is true, then what about those Christians who will vote for the other candidate and who also believe in God’s sovereignty? If the former is true, would this not drive me to pray more fervently (1 Tim 2:1-3) and to continue on God’s mission (Eph 1:10) as Paul directs the churches in Ephesus to do?

How I answer these questions might reveal what I believe about God.

Learn more about how evangelicals can respond to the lesser of two evils in When Evangelicals Sneeze.

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No More Weeping

Yesterday was national daughter’s day. I’m not sure when that national day came into being, but we have a daughter who merits being recognized for at least one day out of a year if not every day. Michaela and I were having another one of our great theological conversations. They are getting increasingly rare, not due to a lack of desire, but rather to her life work as a social worker and a graduate student. Nevertheless, as I was concluding chapter 10 of Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement she had just begun to attend a Bible study on the book of Revelation. As she shared with me that evening about her perspective of Rev 21:4, her words seemed to ring true: “Daddy, I believe the tears that God will wipe away are due to the fact that we will recognize all the people we did not share Christ with and realize that they will be eternally separated from us and God.” 

An absolutely tragic thought. Can you imagine a world without those loved ones—family, friends, even neighbors and colleagues—knowing that we had a sacred duty to share the gospel with them and did not? 

We are getting closer to those streets of gold John wrote about (Rev 21:21) as the church continues on her mission. Unfortunately, in the United States, people are increasingly disillusioned by Christianity and the church as they move further and further away from the God who desires nothing more than to have a relationship with them. Many are predicting an untold number of churches closing this year and the need to equip more than 2,000 people every year to start new churches that will defend the faith, care for the marginalized and exploited, and declare the glory of God so more and more people will worship Him (Rev 2:1-7).

If the challenge in the United State were not overwhelming, around the world, as near as we can tell, two-thirds of the global population does not know Christ and 2.1 billion people are completely outside the reach of the gospel—a number that is increasing daily as the population continues to swell. Additionally, nearly 6 million people, representing 269 distinct ethnic groups living in their homelands, have never been contacted by a missionary. We estimate that it will take another 311 missionary units to risk all for the gospel to engage these people with the love of Christ. These people have stories of searching for a God they do not know. The Holy Spirit is at work among them, yet they do not see Him. Now the church must fulfill her responsibility to make God’s story known.

A movement of God is happening in the world today. He will accomplish his mission, as John prophesied (Rev 10:11). The question for us is this: Will we demonstrate our love for Christ by joining God in His mission to see every tribe, nation, language, and people worship Him?

Adapted from Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement

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Fighting for Freedom of Religion?

If you have been following the news regarding Grace Community Church and its pastor John MacArthur’s battle in the courts of California, you might be thinking this is one of those complex issues confronting Christian churches across the country. 

The claim that California is prohibiting the freedom to worship is simply not true. As of September 13, the LA County Public Health Department states in their Health Officer Order, “You may attend in-person faith-based services, including weddings and funerals, if they are held outside and social distancing and infection control requirements in the County’s Protocol for Places of Worship are posted and followed.”

“There is nothing inherently wrong with MacArthur and others taking issue with a governor’s executive order.”

While the State is prohibiting gathering together en masse, whether large church gatherings, movie theaters, or sporting events, it does so in the interest of public health and slowing the spread of the Novel Coronavirus. In spite of prohibiting cultural gatherings, Californians, as do all Americans, still have the freedom to worship, just as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 

The real issue here, it seems, is how one defines worship and church. MacArthur and others clearly define it as necessitating a preacher and building. However, I’m not so certain that was in the minds of the New Testament authors. Nevertheless, there are cultural particularities that allow for an understanding of a church to focus on buildings and pastors in spite of the fact that the first archeological evidence for a church building dates to 241AD. For nearly 200 years, it appears that the church not only met in smaller groups in homes, but grew from 120 disciples to more than 3 million while enduring empire-wide persecution and at least two plagues!

So, what might motivate MacArthur and others to make such claims about the government? I have no doubt that they have good intentions but wonder if they are misinformed or misguided. It is also altogether possible that the issue is simply cultural and theological, not necessarily one of right or wrong.

Here are four possible theological reasons for why churches and pastors take action against public health concerns:

  1. Theological – the belief that the church needs a building. Just as the Jewish Temple was a place for Jews to worship en masse, there is a similar belief among Christians that “church” is a “temple” where many gather. While there were large gatherings in the first century, Christians mostly gathered in homes to worship, pray, fellowship, and to hear the Scriptures as they continued to stay on God’s mission (Acts 2:42-47).
  2. Theological – the belief that the church will be persecuted by governments. This is an allusion to Revelation 13 where there is a clear persecution of Christians by political authorities. In some forms of the doctrine of the end times, Christians look at Revelation as being fulfilled in our day. That being the case, they see justification for perceived persecution as they interpret the Bible. While Revelation 13 accounts for the political authorities (beast with ten horns and seven heads, Rev 13:1) persecuting the church (saints), these events had probably already taken place although they might also be prophetic in as much as John is preparing the seven churches of Asia Minor for the end times. The picture that is portrayed in Revelation, however, is that all the saints are suffering this persecution, not one or a small group of churches.
  3. Theological – the belief that a pastor is the primary preacher of the word and therefore must have an audience. This notion is foreign to the New Testament as there were not people called pastors. Pastor is the English translation of a Latin word (pastor), which is itself a translation of the Greek word for shepherd (poimēn). It is only used once in the New Testament in its noun form in relationship to a role in the church (Eph 4:11) and 11 times in its verb form, and refers mostly to the function of a group of leaders who were to care for Christians as shepherds cared for a flock of sheep (1 Peter 5:2). There were actually many different roles these leaders played in the New Testament, not simply that of a shepherd (e.g. overseer, elder, deacon, apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher). Nevertheless, there are those who believe that some of these roles no longer exist and have been superseded by the position of a pastor whose primary role is preaching on Sunday mornings.
  4. Theological – the belief that forsaking the gathering together is forbidden in Scripture. An appeal to Hebrew 10:25 is often used as a command for the public gathering in buildings for the sake of encouragement. While true, the author of Hebrews wrote to those who would have been gathering together in house churches. Such types of small gatherings are not restricted by most COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

The motivation for gathering together as a church might also have human qualities:

  1. Financial – church buildings often have significant mortgages as well as maintenance and upkeep needs that requires people to give financially to ensure that the buildings are properly maintained. They would argue that keeping a church building open is a stewardship issue. People are less likely to give to a church if they do not benefit from the use of the facility. COVID-19 has exposed how reliant churches are for the Sunday gathering in order to ensure people still give financially.
  2. Financial – the pastor and his full time staff are paid positions in a church. Preaching has become the pastor’s occupation and he will often spend up to 40 hours or more preparing for that Sunday event. Holding Sunday services justifies, in part, his remuneration.
  3. Social – people like to gather together in large groups. It helps them have a sense of identity as well as belonging.

There is nothing inherently wrong with MacArthur and others taking issue with a governor’s executive order. Perhaps, however, one should consider whether or not such action might hurt the reputation of the people of God. After all, if we are genuinely looking out for the welfare of our neighbor (Matt 22:39; Rom 13:10), should we not desire to demonstrate our love for them by showing concern for their health (Rom 15:2)? Right in the midst of the lockdown in Los Angeles county, we interviewed Brad Watson, one of the equipping elders at Soma Culver City. Here is what one church is doing to engage their community for Christ while caring for the health of others. Brad and Soma are seeing some neat things as they introduce the city to Jesus:

Learn more about the first century church in Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement

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Who Would Jesus Vote for?

With less than 60 days until the 2020 presidential election, who would Jesus vote for? Both evangelical Democrats and Republicans would no doubt claim He would vote for their candidate. Even more, both sides would argue that their political party best represents the values of the Kingdom of God.

Admittedly, there are those who see Jesus as very political. After all, did He not talk about a “political system” called the kingdom of God not being of this world (John 18:36)? A place where He would be King of kings (Rev 19:16)? What is more, does not entering this kingdom require a remarkable level of loyalty? We must: 1) do away with body parts that make us sin (Mark 9:47); 2) give up all our wealth (Mark 10:23); 3) be absolutely committed (Luke 9:62); 4) not worry about our future (Luke 12:31); and much more. Entering the kingdom of God represents no easy task. It demands our undivided attention because it was not Abraham Lincoln nor Ronald Reagan who said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matt 12:25). It was Jesus.

Yet, it is unhelpful to think of the kingdom of God in terms of humanly constructed political systems. God’s kingdom does not constitute a government even though many are tempted to call it a theocracy. A theocracy, just as a democracy, demonstrates a human attempt to design a system of governance. The difference with a democracy is that a theocracy rules by divine right. This system of governance places the power of divine judgment in the hands of a select group of divine representatives; something that we see in Iran, for example. In spite of the fact that the apostles will sit on thrones to judge the tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28-30), we find no theocratic system of government indicated in Scripture.

Jesus and the early disciples were not concerned about the politic of the day, that is governmental, educational, economical, or social systems. They did not devise a political theology. Their concern landed squarely on the people caught up in those systems. To suggest they were concerned about the systems, or a political theology, makes their mission about changing the system when Jesus’ mission remained focused on God’s glory manifested in the worship of more and more people. When people are transformed then systems naturally transform. So, I hold that Jesus stood apolitical in this regard; not dispassionate about people’s situations especially where injustice ruled. Rather, He wholly focused on His Father’s glory. This embodies the foundation for a Christian movement and our group’s identity. This is manifested in the Christian pursuit of social justice, defense of the faith, and declaration of God’s glory (Rev. 2:1-7).

A Plea

Democrats and Republicans must be careful on two fronts. First, they must regard “the other” in kindness and generosity. Both sides are not completely wrong nor are they completely right. Neither side exists solely on “truth.” Second, Democrats and Republicans alike must be careful of the manner in which they apply Scripture to their political ideologies. Whether on the left or right of the political spectrum, any form of politicization of faith can, and has, easily turned to a weaponizing of words that inflame and divide the people of God. That does not typify the way of Jesus. Just as Jesus did not identify as a Zealot or Herodian, neither does He identify as a Democrat or Republican. Instead, as Paul reminds us, Jesus shows favor to each, “be to one another kind, compassionate, gracious to each other just as God in Christ showed graciousness to you” (Eph 4:32, my translation). We must endeavor to be like our King aligned with the group He created.

Tertullian (b. 160), writing in the late second century, articulates an early view of the Christian’s relationship to the state. He clearly saw little value. In fact, he understood that such a wedding of Christianity and government was idolatrous:

There can be no compatibility between the divine and the human sacrament (military oath), the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot serve two masters-God and Caesar. Moses, to be sure, carried a rod; Aaron wore a military belt, and John (the Baptist) is girt with leather (i.e., like a soldier); and, if you really want to play around with the subject, Joshua the son of Nun led an army and the people waged war. But how will a Christian man go to war? Indeed, how will he serve even in peacetime without a sword which the Lord has taken away? For even if soldiers came to John and received advice on how to act, and even if a centurion became a believer, the Lord, in subsequently disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier. No uniform is lawful among us if it is designated for an unlawful action. (Treatise on Idolatry 19)

A mitigation strategy for evangelical Democrats and Republicans; even for the human race.

ADAPTED FROM WHEN EVANGELICALS SNEEZE: CURING THE AMERICAN CHURCH FROM THE PLAGUE OF IDENTITY LOSS

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The Dangers of Charismatic Leadership

Leadership sets the tone for the direction of a movement. In fact, one might argue that a movement will rise or fall largely on its leadership. To understand the effective movement leadership that we see in the New Testament is to understand the theocentric focus of the leaders. This leadership imbues a profound sense of humility, as it looks at Jesus as the chief cornerstone upon which the entire foundation of the household of God is built (Eph 2:19–22). Without Him, everything crumbles under the weight of our inadequacies. It seems like we see contemporary movements regularly crumble, as leaders become enthralled with their own abilities and personalities. We see this most clearly in new religious movements (NRMs), but increasingly in the American evangelicalism as well as in politics.

The Dangers of Charismatic Leadership Click To Tweet

In the study of new religious movements, which are often pejoratively referred to as cults, leaders clearly take on a savior role, as followers are attracted to their charismatic personalities that often communicate their connection to God, or some supernatural force, which gave them special abilities or a position as a divine authority (Wessinger 2012; Dawson 2006). These personality cults—such as Jim Jones of the People’s Temple, David Koresh of the Branch Davidians, or David Berg of the Children of God/the Family—exhibit extraordinary influence over their followers. While these extreme examples resulted in abuse and death, others have exhibited a spiritual abuse couched in Christian language that appears legitimate for a while, but they are often exposed by disillusioned followers. In recent times, one may recall Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels, James MacDonald, and Jerry Falwell, Jr. as well-known examples of charismatic personalities within the evangelical world who held an extreme influence over followers, thus permitting their deviant behaviors and moral failures. 

The characteristics of these leadership figures, whether in evangelicalism, politics, or in NRMs, are similar: they have an ability to form a charismatic bond with followers; they demonstrate “extraordinary” abilities to communicate with authority; and they have “extraordinary” experiences that have confirmed a divine calling. Where this type of charismatic leadership departs from New Testament leadership is in its anthropocentric focus, rather than the theocentric focus we see in the leaders of the first century church. A cursory study of the Apostle Paul reveals multiple characteristics that are an antithesis to charismatic leaders: his self-identification as a doulos (“bond servant;” servant in ESV) of Christ (Rom 1:1); his self-identification as the chief of all sinners (1 Tim 1:15); his self-identification as a diakonos of the church (1 Cor 3:5). For Paul, this was not self-deprecation or a false humility, but the reality and realization of a life so focused on God that everything else, including himself, faded in the shadow of His glory. While Paul could rightly claim an authority over people (2 Cor 10:8), he would much rather identify himself with his co-laborers (2 Tim 1:7) and call others to join him on God’s mission (1 Cor 11:1). This is the type of leadership that propels a movement into the future, as it is tied to God’s mission and not their own.

In recent times, one may recall Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels, James MacDonald, and Jerry Falwell, Jr. as well-known examples of charismatic personalities within the evangelical world who held an extreme… Click To Tweet

There always seems to be a tendency to elevate religious personalities to such a height that the pressure and attention results in abuse. This was no different during the first century. There were many messianic figures proclaiming salvation for Israel and philosophers who amassed followings all over the Roman Empire. However, what we see in New Testament leaders is their deliberate focus on making Jesus famous among people. This theocentrism is apparent in Paul, who mentions the three persons of the Trinity 133 times in his short circular letter to the churches of Asia. John’s anonymity as the author of the Fourth Gospel is evidence that he wanted to draw his readers and listeners to Jesus and not to himself. New Testament leaders are unwaveringly theocentric as they inspire Jesus’ followers to join in God’s mission as co-laborers—not in a hierarchical system that promotes their leadership, but rather in a community leadership among equals. These leaders knew that there was only one head of the church, and He is the only one worthy to follow. 

Adapted from Ephesiology: A Study of the Ephesian Movement

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What is Social Justice Anyway?

Social justice has become a polarizing term that has set Christians against each other. Contributing to the confusion are social theories such as critical theory and critical race theory where social justice tends to focus on opposing systemic issues where an oppressor group has disadvantaged other groups. Such theories, when applied by Christians, tend to lean toward a form of liberation theology decried by most historically orthodox evangelicals. Nevertheless, social justice as a nomenclature expressing Christian action in social issues continues to find credence among evangelicals. For example, writing during the tumultuous times of the 1960s, one of the leading evangelical voices of the day expressed, “In an hour of widespread revolution, when political forces are reshaping the larger frontiers of modern life, the Church’s concern with the problem of social justice is especially imperative” (Carl F.H. Henry, Aspects of Christian Social Ethics).

"In an hour of widespread revolution, when political forces are reshaping the larger frontiers of modern life, the Church’s concern with the problem of social justice is especially imperative" (Carl F.H. Henry, Aspects of Christian Social Ethics). Click To Tweet

Unfortunately, those evangelicals who employ the term today are often accused of conflating Marxism or communism with Christianity or they are accused of propagating a social gospel. While there are certainly evangelicals who favor critical theory as a means to address social problems, the opposition to social justice has exposed a dualism among other evangelicals that might be equally dangerous. The evangelical missiologist James Stamoolis recognized this dualism. In attempting to address it, he wrote, “We may need to advocate for social justice for the other, even if the other has not accepted Christ, while not abandoning the central truth of the gospel that Jesus Christ came to redeem a lost humanity and to give new life.” (In Social Injustice: What Evangelicals Need to Know about the World). In other words, social justice should never be divorced from gospel proclamation. Indeed, as I have argued in When Evangelicals Sneeze, there are three areas of ministry in the New Testament church: gospel proclamation, defense of the faith, and social justice. So, is there merit in continuing to use the term social justice? I think there is as long as evangelicals play a role in defining it.

Social justice can be defined as advocacy for the just treatment of people in a society. It involves concern for the social well-being of the marginalized and exploited as much as for concern about the ill-treated of minority populations. While the term is anachronistic to the New Testament, the ideas it imbibes are not. For example, in the New Testament, we see social justice expressed in how the church stood in the gap for women who were exploited by men in the practices associated with courtesans and temple prostitutes (1 Tim 2:9-12; Rev 2:6). We also see it in the church’s concern for widows and orphans (James 1:27). Clearly, Paul viewed the role of the government as an instrument of social justice. By God’s authority, a government should act to ensure Christians did good, that is, acted justly. Implicit to his understanding of the government was its obligation to also do good to others as God’s servant (Rom 13:1-7).

In the second century, we see social justice advocated against the Roman Empire’s ill-treatment of Christians. In his defense before Emperor Titus, for example, Justin pleaded, “We demand that charges against the Christians be investigated…it is for you, as reason demands, to give a hearing and show yourselves good judges.” (Apology 3). Justin conceded that if the Christians were found lacking in acting according to law, that is acting unjustly, they were to be punished. Naturally, he applied what Paul had taught about the role of the government.

Later, writing in the fifth century, Jerome grew increasingly concerned with Christianity’s new-found status in society and especially its wealth. He wrote, “Parchments are dyed purple, gold is melted into lettering, manuscripts are decked with jewels, while Christ lies at the door naked and dying” (Letter 22.32). Clearly concerned for the influence of money, Jerome warned the church that she could not serve both God and wealth. Instead, Christians should give to the marginalized because what they own is not truly theirs. As such, stewardship and philanthropy involved acts of social justice. 

“Parchments are dyed purple, gold is melted into lettering, manuscripts are decked with jewels, while Christ lies at the door naked and dying” (Jerome, Letter 22.32). Click To Tweet

At the turn of the first millennium, Michael Psellus, politician turned historian then monk, documented the lives of emperors in Chronographia. Among the issues he wrestled with was the role of providence and authority. While his idea of providence did not seem to be crystallized as in later theological development, he saw a form of justice emerge that ensured the just role of government. It was providence that removed the unjust ruler and providence that empowered the just ruler and he clearly saw that such authority found its source in God. Just as much as the church cared for the soul, the government cared for the public administration of justice based on virtue and high ideals. For Psellus, he believed the emperor was responsible to God and to the citizens for the manner in which the empire governed justly (Hussey, 1935).

The Christian church has always been a part of social justice as she believed that to be an imitator of God not only manifested in the defense of the faith and the proclamation of the gospel, but also the just service of people whose voices were silenced in part due to their social position. When the empire Christianized in the fourth century, the government shared responsibility for the just treatment of people. So, social justice is not a political issue. It should not polarize Christians. In fact, it should unify us in furthering our just actions as well as in holding our government accountable to also act justly.

Adapted from the forthcoming book: Social Injustice II: An Evangelical Voice in Tumultuous Times

Learn more about the Church’s ministry in When Evangelicals Sneeze: Curing the American Church from the Plague of Identity Loss

Why I Resigned from Evangelicalism

In early November 2019, I sat in a room of Christians comprised of various traditions: Coptic, Orthodox, Syriac, Catholic, and evangelical. The location did not escape my attention as the group of about 50 members of the Lausanne Orthodox Initiative, an issue group of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, a movement started in 1974 in Lausanne, Switzerland by Billy Graham and John Stott, discussed the meaning of working together for progress in the gospel at the monastery of Saint Bishoy. Saint Bishoy lived in the late fourth century and became known as one of the so-called desert-fathers.

As our group shared that afternoon around the conference table, a brave Palestinian evangelical raised an issue that was certainly on everyone’s minds, but no one would willingly admit, until she exposed the problem with American evangelicalism. In essence she testified to the difficulty she and other Palestinian evangelicals experience in communicating the gospel when evangelicals have been stigmatized with the political policies and morality of Donald Trump. She is not the only non-American evangelical who has felt this tension. As I have travelled around the world and continue relationships with dear evangelical friends now through electronic means, I hear similar stories. But in Egypt, that was the last straw.

I sat next to Doug Birdsall during that session. As the former executive chairman of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, I thought he would be the closest thing to an evangelical pope. So, I turned to him and announced my verbal resignation from evangelicalism. If being evangelical means that I am stigmatized by the actions of a politician, rather than the work of Jesus Christ, then I wanted nothing to do with it. I was done. Heartbroken and shaken to my core.

Well, it’s been a long ten months since that meeting. Mark Galli wrote a stinging review of the president later in November 2019. The novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in more deaths in the United States than any place in the world. Racial tensions have never been as acute as they are now. And to top it off, Robert Jeffress announced to a packed congregation at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas on June 28, 2020, at an event called “Freedom Sunday,” that he predicts a record number of evangelicals will vote for Trump later in November. 

In many ways, the current political, racial, and health climate of the United States has exposed numerous issues within evangelicalism’s loss of identity. The tensions we feel racially and politically, combined by the ongoing stress and anxiety created by a plague can only be addressed as evangelicals restore their identity grounded in a counter-intuitive reformation found in the first century. I’ve attempted to lay out what that might look like in When Evangelicals Sneeze: Curing the American Church from the Plague of Identity Loss. 

I believe strongly that the evangelical church today must become like the churches of the first century. So, the evangelical church must stand on the side of social justice. She must also defend the faith. And she must never waiver from declaring God’s glory so that every people, tribe, language, and nation will one day be represented at the throne of God. The very heart of the evangelical church encourages her members to stay on God’s mission as we unite as one body of Christ to glorify God. In as much as the evangelical church will make this her focus, and I believe it’s possible, I rescind my resignation from evangelicalism and pledge to do what I can to restore our identity in a biblically grounded, socially just, gospel proclaiming community of Christ followers passionate to see God’s glory and Christ’s fame declared around the world. If this is the virus we are spreading, then I will gladly sneeze.

ADAPTED FROM WHEN EVANGELICALS SNEEZE: CURING THE AMERICAN CHURCH FROM THE PLAGUE OF IDENTITY LOSS

The Effect of Our Witness

During the course of my research for When Evangelicals Sneeze: Curing the American Church from the Plague of Identity Loss, I came across many comments about evangelicals. Some of them were from evangelicals in other parts of the world talking about American evangelicals. Some were evangelical Democrats talking about evangelical Republicans and vice versa. Others were from non-evangelicals, even people from other faiths, talking about American evangelicals. What seemed apparent from all types of comments was American evangelicals have acted in such a way that people around the world do not understand what an American evangelical is. Sometimes I wonder the same. I even wonder if the manner in which we have talked about each other has created stumbling blocks to people learning about Jesus.

If there is one thing I have learned over more than 30 years of cultural engagement, it is that belief in Jesus Christ should be the only stumbling block to a person coming to faith (1 Cor 8:9). This was very apparent regarding the witness of the early missionaries in Ephesus. At a crucial moment in ministry, the town clerk spoke up, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess” (Acts 19:35-37).

The important lesson we learn from these missionaries is that we do not allow our prejudgments to impact our witness for the gospel. We might not agree with someone’s religious views or political views, even their perception of the pandemic. But those things should never become a stumbling block to another person coming to Christ. Unfortunately, in the United States, that is not the case. American evangelicals seem to make all sorts of things, except Jesus, stumbling blocks and it has affected our witness.

Steve Heimoff, a northern Californian wine connoisseur, writes a regular blog. Most recently, his focus on the coronavirus and politics fills his writing more than wine. In an April 2020 post in the category of comedy/satire, he voices what reads as a frustration, but should wake us up to the growing reputation of American evangelicals. He says,  

One thing the evangelicals could do to hasten their trip to heaven is to cough and sneeze on each other, and be coughed and sneezed upon in return. I could imagine a huge Christian revival rally at one of those megachurches. Just set aside twenty minutes for everybody to cough and sneeze, while the choir sings and the organist pounds out “Nearer My God to Thee.” Let’s say you’re running a fever and you have a sore throat and a lot of phlegm. You just go up to your neighbor in church, say “God bless you” and sneeze in their face, spraying as much spittle as you can. Your neighbor will then say “Thank you” and in turn go cough and sneeze on someone else. At the end of the 20 minutes (I’ve done the math), a congregation of 1,500 could easily infect themselves several times over. Assuming it takes anywhere from a few days to two weeks to come down with actual COVID-19 disease after exposure, I’d say that, if these evangelicals begin their work this Sunday, around 60% of them will be dead by the first week of June. (“Evangelicals, Trump, and COVID-19”) 

We have long since reached the point in our country where our witness as evangelicals has been jeopardized by our actions. Rather than being stigmatized by our love for Jesus and desire to be like Him, we are stigmatized by our politics, social views, even by our views of what is or is not fake news. If we do not change and recover our identity as the household of God, then I’m afraid God will allow us to reap the shallow rewards we’ve been working toward. I hope it is not too late and I hope that our self-inflicted virus has not become a pandemic infecting other evangelicals around the world.

ADAPTED FROM WHEN EVANGELICALS SNEEZE: CURING THE AMERICAN CHURCH FROM THE PLAGUE OF IDENTITY LOSS

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Were there Evangelicals in the Bible?

The Bible might be a good place to start when attempting a definition of evangelical. After all, every Christian denomination in the world would claim that they are the correct manifestation of the church, at least as they would interpret the Bible. The problem remains, we would be hard pressed to say that there were evangelicals in the Bible, just like we would be hard pressed to say that there were Protestants, Catholics, Coptics, or Orthodox. The uniqueness and diversity of evangelicalism’s contemporary expressions must beg the question of who can actually define it. That is, who has the right to put a definition on a term with so many different manifestations.

Undeniably  the idea of “evangelical” originates in the Bible. Etymologically, evangelical finds its roots in the Greek word euangelion, simply translated good news. In as much as evangelicalism concerns itself with the proclamation of the good news, namely the assertion that an historically identifiable Savior came into the world (Luke 2; John 1) with a message from God (John 17:1) that He desires all people to come to the knowledge of truth (1 Tim 2:4) and be transformed from an allegiance to their own self-glorification (Rom 3:23) to an allegiance to the one true God (Acts 17:30), then we might correctly say that there were evangelicals in the Bible in spite of the apparent anachronism.

When we consider the exponential growth of the early church, we might be tempted to say that there were evangelicals in the first four centuries. After all, one would expect a religious group bearing the moniker evangelical to actually evangelize. This certainly happened prior to the politicization of Christianity in 323 AD.

Graph 1: Growth of Early Christianity (Cooper and Till 2020)

The issue with suggesting there were evangelicals in the Bible lies in the fact that the context in which definitions of evangelical occur today is distinctly different from the context of the first century. First, while there were a set of Scriptures in the first century church, namely the Hebrew Scriptures, today’s evangelical places a primacy on the New Testament as the expression of the new covenant revealed in Jesus Christ (Heb 8:13). The New Testament, subsequently, helps to clarify what the Christian tradition has called the Old Testament. However, the first Christians did not have the privilege of a book called the New Testament and relied upon the transmission of the teaching of the apostles; what the Apostle Paul called “traditions” (2 Thess 2:15; 1 Cor 11:2). 

Some evangelicals might find it difficult to appreciate that the Catholic Church finally determined the canon of the New Testament at the Council of Trent in the 16th century. This Counter Reformation to Martin Luther’s (an early evangelical) Reformation sought to address his low view of several books of the New Testament (Hebrews, James, Jude, Revelation) and set the corpus of the 27 New Testament books once and for all. 

No doubt, evangelicals are keen to argue that the Muratorian fragment demonstrated an early corpus of the New Testament. This 7th century Latin fragment translated from a Greek manuscript dated in the second century contains most of the New Testament books we have today. Nevertheless, the fragment aligns more closely with Luther’s version of the New Testament than with our current one. Still, Athanasius of Alexandria, most famous for his defense of the nature of Christ at the first ecumenical council, composed a canon of the 27 books of the New Testament in 367 AD. Yet, his canon was not generally accepted by the universal church. All this to say that the church most definitely possessed what we call the New Testament as early as the second century, but consensus did not occur until the 16thcentury.

Second, the sundry expressions of church in the 21st century raises serious questions of whether or not an evangelical identity might be found in the first Christians. The various ideas of church governance (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational), the form of baptism (sprinkling, immersion), and the meaning of the Lord’s supper (Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, Memorial) are all held by different Christians including some evangelicals. All support their various ecclesiological traditions from Scripture. So, is there one, unifying understanding of the church? Apparently, after 21 centuries we are still unable to answer this question.

Third, there does not appear to be clear agreement to the purpose of the church. There are some evangelicals who believe that social justice sums up the purpose of the church. God is, after all, a just god who demands us “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Others are just as adamant about an apologetic of the faith. Peter himself said, “always be prepared to make a defense [apologian] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Finally, there are those who see the social justice advocates as leaning too far to a social gospel while the apologists lean too far to the modernists and point to gospel proclamation as the sole mission of the evangelical. After all, Jesus Himself commanded, “Go, make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18).

So, were there evangelicals in the Bible? Perhaps, but wholly unlike the kaleidoscopic evangelicalism we see today.

Adapted from When Evangelicals Sneeze: Curing the American Church from the Plague of Identity Loss

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What would you do if you knew that one-third of your friends would leave church?

The July 8, 2020 release of the Barna Group’s latest study on the State of the Church has confirmed what some have suspected would occur as a result of COVID-19. The study revealed that 32 percent of practicing Christians stopped attending church, whether in person or online, since the outbreak of the virus. While the national public opinion survey of 1,000 US adults had a +/- 2.2% rate of error, when extrapolated to the general Christian population, there could be as many as 43 million people who decided to no longer attend church. Whether or not their minds will change once gathering restrictions are loosened, the study does corroborate a growing trend in the rapid decline of church attendance over the past two decades.

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There is a trifecta for a perfect storm that has formed above the US religious landscape

Just five years ago, for example, University of Northern Colorado sociology professor Joshua Packard (2015) found that 65 million US adults were “done” with church. Similar to the Barna study, “done” did not mean that they left the faith, although Packard indicated that nearly 30 million adults actually did. “Done” simply meant that US adults no longer felt a need to attend church as it did not satisfy their expectations. If these two studies are correct, we have just witnessed nearly 100 million people leaving the church in the past decade.

Christianity in general and evangelicalism specifically have been trending downward since the 1990s when nearly 90 percent of the US adult population identified as Christian. Today, that number is only 65 percent of the approximate 209 million US adults. While there have been some who argue that in spite of the decrease of the general Christian population, evangelicalism is growing, this is only true among certain segments. Black evangelical growth has remained stagnate over time, while Hispanic growth has increased yet not at a rate to sustain evangelicalism’s overall decline. White evangelicals in 2019 made up 15 percent of the US Christian population whereas in 2010 it was 21 percent (Jones 2019).

There is a trifecta for a perfect storm that has formed above the US religious landscape: 1) the perceived irrelevance of the legacy church (Packard 2015, Barna 2020); 2) the indicated heretical beliefs of a majority of evangelicals (State of Theology, 2018); 3) increasing distrust of pastors (Brenan 2017). If things do not change, the exponential rate of decline of the legacy church will result in a church-less America.

Even more disheartening, the impact will have global ramifications. As the church continues to decline, we might anticipate a concomitant reduction in the size of the missionary force coming from the United States as well as a reduction of financial resources. Economists and non-profit CFOs are already predicting as much as a 50 percent drop in giving as we go into 2021 (Holcombe and Kuntz 2020).

What would you do if you knew that one-third of your friends would leave church?

What will it take for American evangelicalism to recover? That is the focus of a new master class entitled The Church in Times of Crisis. Ephesiology Master Classes brings you an online experience focused on addressing issues confronting Christianity in North America. You’ll hear leading experts like Jeff Christopherson, co-director of the Send Institute at Wheaton College, and Alan Hirsch, founder of Forge and best selling author, focus on the future of evangelicalism and its leadership.

You’ll also hear from church planters like Devlin Scott of NewCity Church who will challenge you to consider what you can do in racial reconciliation, Russell Cravens of Neartown Church who will challenge you to reconsider the purpose of the sermon, and Heath Haynes of The Bridge Montrose who will challenge you to push shepherding to small groups. This is a class that will surely help you think about the shape of your church in 21st century.

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Works Cited

Barna Group. 2020. “One in Three Practicing Christians Has Stopped Attending Church During COVID-19.” Internet resource available from https://www.barna.com/research/new-sunday-morning-part-2/. Accessed July 8, 2020.

Brenan, Megan. 2017. “Nurses Keep Healthy Lead as Most Honest, Ethical Profession.” Internet resource available from https://news.gallup.com/poll/224639/nurses-keep-healthy-lead-honest-ethical-profession.aspx. Accessed July 9, 2020.

Holcombe, Lee and Ray Kuntz. 2020. “COVID-19: The Effects on Ministry Giving.” Internet resource available from https://deo-volente.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID-19-The-Effects-on-Ministry-Giving-.pdf. Accessed July 8, 2020.

Packard, Joshua. 2015. Exodus of the Religious Dones: Research Reveals the Size, Make-Up, and Motivations of the Formerly Churched Population. Loveland, CO: Group Publishing.

Jones, Robert P. “White Christian America Ended in the 2010s.” Internet resource available from https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/2010s-spelled-end-white-christian-america-ncna1106936. Accessed July 9, 2020.

The State of Theology. 2018. “The 2018 State of Theology Survey.” Internet resource available from https://thestateoftheology.com. Accessed July 8, 2020.

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Restoring American Evangelicalism

Are you struggling with American evangelicalism like I am? It’s gotten to the point that I almost don’t recognize a theological tradition that I’ve identified with for more than 30 years. In my recent book, I share my concerns for loosing our identity.

You’ll read about how the majority of evangelicals live outside of the US yet evangelicalism is largely identified with the church in America. The uniquely American conflation of faith and politics is actually hurting the witness of Christians around the world.

I wrestle with questions like has God given up on the American church? Is this the end of American evangelicalism? Or can it be saved? Ultimately, I look to three scholars from England, Ghana, and America to help us define evangelicalism.

Then I put forward this idea for you to consider. These three areas of ministry – defense of the faith, social justice, gospel proclamation – mark the identity of the evangelical church. Her defense of the faith marks her beliefs in the one true God and Savior of all humanity. Her engagement in social justice marks a behavior with the conviction that when she does these things she does them to Christ Himself. Finally, her declaration of God’s glory to the nations marks her unity with all evangelicals in a common mission so compelling that it brings others into the community of Christ followers.

I hope you’ll pick up this book and join me in restoring American evangelicalism. 

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Plagues, racial riots, and a political antichrist – The Time is Near?

You hear many pastors and theologians attempting to interpret the Book of Revelation in light of what is happening in our world today: Plagues, racial riots, a political antichrist, and the list could go on. It’s to be expected, after all, we generally think the end times is about us. Right?

Our desire to know the story of the end times is often clouded in the particular scenes the Apostle John describes—the seven bowls, the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the horsemen, the lake of fire, the battle of Armageddon—rather than in the prophecy that God’s mission will be completed (Rev 10:11). What does it all mean?

John, who stood with Jesus before His ascension and heard Him say once again that he is not to be concerned about when the Father will restore the kingdom (Acts 1:6-7), reminds the churches, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Rev 1:3).

Antichrists could very well be in the world now.

Yes, signs are all around: a US political system in turmoil; a global pandemic; 80 million refugees around the world without hope; 40 million blacks in America in anguish. Antichrists could very well be in the world now. Yet, the focus of the Book of Revelation is on the prophetic voice, the voice of God’s priests — you and me — that proclaims, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:9). 

It is a missiologically theocentric understanding of Revelation that points us to the proclamation of the gospel to every ethnic group on the planet so that more and more people will be at God’s throne in worship. However, our anthropocentric tendencies, that is our own selfishness, in reading Revelation focuses our attention on what will happen to us rather than on the prophecy that God’s mission will be complete and on His call for us to join that mission.

The great joy that awaits the Christian is not that our suffering will be alleviated (anthropocentrism), but that we will be eternally glorifying our Creator on the new earth with people from all over the globe (theocentrism). As John put it, “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him” (Rev 22:3).

Adapted from Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement

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Ep 39: Sustaining a Movement

How did the New Testament church sustain such fantastic growth? Join our podcasters as they look at the seven letters Jesus wrote to the churches of Asia Minor. The book of Revelation is often thought to be a book about the end times. We’ll discuss why it might be more appropriate to think of it as a book about the completion of God’s mission and Jesus’s call for the churches to stay on course.

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Go Deeper in Your Study of Revelation

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