Monthly Archives: March 2009


The New Calvinism

TIMEA recent TIME (March 21, 2009) magazine cover story caught a lot of attention, especially among evangelical Christians. Right alongside of ideas like "Ecological Intelligence," "Africa: Open for Business" and "Reinventing the Highway" was "The New Calvinism." This short article, written by David Van Biema, the senior religion editor for TIME, is both insightful and simplistic. It is insightful because he tracks a movement that is gaining a measure of momentum. It is simplistic because the brevity of the piece doesn't allow for any serious interaction with the "ideas" that are explored. Biema writes:

If you really want to follow the development of conservative Christianity, track its musical hits. In the early 1900s you might have heard "The Old Rugged Cross," a celebration of the atonement. By the 1980s you could have shared the Jesus-is-my-buddy intimacy of "Shine, Jesus, Shine." And today, more and more top songs feature a God who is very big, while we are . . . well, hark the David

By |March 31st, 2009|Categories: American Evangelicalism|

Why Politics Matters Deeply and Why Politics Is Sometimes Dirty Rotten Business

Last week I watched two very interesting DVD accounts of political lives. I was struck by how important politics is, on the one hand, and why the whole business stinks on the other.

Charlie The first DVD I watched was a 90-minute History Channel documentary titled: "The True Story of Charlie Wilson." Charlie Wilson was the Texas Republican Congressman whose story was made into the popular Hollywood movie, Charlie Wilson's War, in 2008. The documentary was obviously not as fast moving and dramatic as the movie but it had a lot more interesting information than the movie. (I saw the movie last year and enjoyed it.)

Charlie Wilson was a hard drinking, hard living playboy who was drawn to partner with Gus Avrakotos, a CIA agent nicknamed "Dr. Dirty." The two of them would mastermind, over the course of ten years, to arm the Afghan Mujahideen in their war with the Soviet Union. Together

By |March 30th, 2009|Categories: Politics|

Your Church Is Too Small

Many of you have prayed for me as I wrote a book telling my own story and explaining what I mean by missional-ecumenism. That book was completed last November, at least the draft was finished. I then gave it to Zondervan, my publisher. After several delays the book was put into the production schedule and will be released in February of 2010 if all stays on track.

When a book is accepted by most publishing companies a process begins that includes choosing a title and subtitle, creating art work for front and back of the book, and doing macro-edits and then micro-edits. The process takes several months. Then the marketing and sales people also get involved. I will personally be very proactive in the work on this book, even meeting with the staff at Zondervan on Monday, April 6, for a private time of dialogue and planning.

Last week the final title for the book was chosen after a process of discussion between me and several editors at Zondervan. The final title is: Your

By |March 29th, 2009|Categories: ACT 3|

A Lunch With Visionary Pastors

One part of my ministry is the privilege of meeting with pastors, both one-on-one, and in small groups. On Thursday, March 19, I had a lovely luncheon with six pastors in Rockford, Illinois. Rockford is a city of 150,000 people located about 75 miles Billtrans northwest of my home. I was the invited guest of co-pastors Bill Ward (photo at left) and David Smazik (photo at right) Dave2trans at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Rockford. David and Bill have been friends for several years and Westminster is a congregation that supports ACT 3 in its budget. Over the past few years David, Bill and I have talked about gathering a small group of mainline Protestant ministers who share the same kingdom values, doctrinal orthodoxy and vision for the church. Finally, last week, the meeting happened.

The pastors who joined us included another pastor from Westminster, Brad Rogers, plus three

By |March 28th, 2009|Categories: Personal|

The Emerging Church: Can We Talk?

Since the late 1990s a conversation has been going on about the emergent church. Opinions and reactions range from one end of a broad spectrum to another. Personally, I have longed to see someone deal with these issues fairly from the perspective of a deep commitment to the ancient Christian faith. Now this has been done. A good friend, Dr. Jim Belcher, has written the book I will recommend to many: Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional (IVP). This fine book will be out later this year.

The late Robert Webber spent considerable time among the leaders of the emergent discussion. Many found him to be a friend to those who were seeking for new ways to relate the gospel to our time. Yet these leaders never really heard the true passion of Bob, who once said to me, "John, I fear this is a huge reaction against traditional conservative evangelicalism without a serious foundation consciously rooted in the ancient Christian faith."

By |March 27th, 2009|Categories: Emergent Church|

Mere Christianity and the Reality of Hell

Not long after his rather dramatic conversion to Christ, in 1929, the late C. S. Lewis wrote to a friend: “When all is said (and truly said) about the divisions of Christendom, there remains, by God’s mercy, an enormous common ground.” My bedrock conviction, and that of ACT 3, is that Lewis was right, profoundly right. This enormous common ground should be discussed, reconsidered and taught. Christians need to know that "core orthodoxy" is a reality and that holding to it really matters a great deal. It is here, as Lewis argued so often, that we find the central truth of Christianity, the truth that unites all who know Christ as Lord.

Images Walter Hooper notes, in his preface to Christian Reflections (Eerdmans, 1967): “From that time (i.e. 1929) on Lewis thought that the best service he could do for his unbelieving neighbors was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to

By |March 26th, 2009|Categories: Church Tradition|

How Can We Enter the Reality Which Is the Church?

DT NIles
The late Indian theologian-evangelist, D.T. Niles, relates the story of sitting in the 1954 Assembly of the World Council of Churches and listening to a great sermon by Archbishop Michael of the Orthodox Church. He said that for half an hour he listened to the bishop speak of the church as it is spoken of so wonderfully in the Bible. Then, without warning, the audience discovered that the bishop was talking about the Orthodox Church. The Episcopal Bishop of Washington leaned over to Niles and said, "D.T., she'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes."

Niles goes on to say that this happens whenever one group of Christians, or another, begins to talk about the church. We think, in our own minds, that they are talking about the whole Christian church when in fact they are talking about our own church; e.g., Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox, etc. Niles says it is true for all of us: "She'll be

By |March 25th, 2009|Categories: Unity of the Church|

For God So Loved the World

No text may be better known than John 3:16. We see it at ballgames and we hear it from Christians regularly. Most of us who have any background in the Christian faith learned it before we heard almost any other Bible text. Luther said this text was "the gospel in miniature."

But is this text all there is to Christianity? Some evangelicals seem to think so. They treat this as a kind of magical verse that unlocks the door of life to all who say it and believe it. (What does it mean to believe it?) What happens to all the texts that speak about things like "loving your enemies" (Matthew 5:43) or Micah 6:8, "What does the Lord require, but that you do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with God." Does a "simple faith" in the words of John 3:16 settle everything and we are "one and done?" Even simple readers of the Bible should recognize that this approach is reductionistic

By |March 24th, 2009|Categories: Christ/Christology|

A Dallas Retreat on Spiritual Awakening

This Saturday, March 28, I will teach a unique seminar from 9:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship (The Treehouse), in Carrollton, Texas. Men and women from the north Dallas-Fort area have formed a group of intercessors to seek God for awakening through a special Day of Prayer on May 5. (This event will be held at the Rough Riders Baseball Park in Frisco, Texas, and is sponsored by a group called God of the City.)

The event at which I speak this weekend will be a half-day retreat for this group of intercessors, as well as other ministry leaders from the Dallas area. I will speak on revival. There will be a time for fellowship and prayer included in the seminar. If you would like to attend you should email: There is no charge. Coffee and light snacks are provided but there is no child care.

There will also be a special ACT 3 Evening event this coming Sunday evening at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Plano, Texas. This event

By |March 23rd, 2009|Categories: ACT 3|

Christianity Is Christ

Christianity is many things. It is a religion, in the best sense of the word, and it is a relationship with God. It is an ethical and doctrinal system that teaches us how to live and what we must believe if we would faithfully follow Christ. But more than all of these Christianity is Christ.

All earnest inquiry into Christianity should begin with an inquiry into the person of the man Jesus of Nazareth. Who was this historic person? And if he was raised on the third day, as true Christians believe, who and where is he today? And what difference does this really make?

The crucial question, so it seems to me, is very simple: Was the carpenter of Nazareth really the Son of God?

John R. Stott suggests that there are two good reasons why all inquiry into Christianity should begin here. First, Christianity is Christ. The person and work of Christ are the foundation for all that the Christian religion

By |March 22nd, 2009|Categories: Christ/Christology|

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