Monthly Archives: October 2006

A New Low for Evangelism in America

Scaring the hell out of teenagers will cost you $299 this year if you intend to use the Hell House Outreach kit written by the Rev. Kennan Roberts, of New Destiny Christian Center in Denver, Colorado. I’m not making this up! Roberts estimates that 800 churches, in every state in America and 18 countries, now use his product. He has sold over 3,000 of his kits to date. 

In one sketch the Roberts Hell House kit tells how you can do a tour in which a “demon” guide marries two men. The skit then fast forwards to a hospital room where one of the partners lies in a bed dying of AIDS. Roberts notes that, “We’re not saying if you have AIDS or an abortion you’re going to hell. There is forgiveness.”

In Burleson, Texas, a church uses the kit and charges $15 admission, Because of the show’s graphic nature children younger than 14 must have a parental release signed at the ticket booth. Teens are herded into pitch-black closets where the floor suddenly shakes and rumbles, creating the sensation

By |October 31st, 2006|Categories: Evangelism|

Back to the Future: On Ancient-Future Christianity

My friend Bob Webber has been a future thinker for a lifetime. When I was a college student he often troubled me while he also deeply challenged me. (With life experience I have learned that this combination is often a great gift to the church.) He has done that for nearly forty years now. Bob may be making his greatest contribution to the church over the past five years or so. Not only are his books on the "Ancient-Future" aspects of Christianity stimulating, and much needed calls for awakening to a sagging and crippled evangelicalism, but his recent work on "An Ancient Evangelical Future" (see is extremely important, at least to my mind. I resolved not to sign such documents a few years ago but this one was so important that I felt I could not resist.

There will be an Ancient Future Evangelical Conference (December 7-9, 2006) at Northern Semninary in Lombard, Illinois. I plan to be present. I hope some of you who read this blog will plan to join me. Information is available

By |October 30th, 2006|Categories: American Evangelicalism|

Mission Is The Mother of All Theology

Martin Kahler appears to have been the first theologian to say it: "Mission is the mother of all theology." I concur completely. One of the major problems of Protestant orthodoxy, especially when it becomes scholastic and academic in form, is that it is divorced from a truly missional context. Good theology grows best in the soil of good questions faced by the church in a true missionary encounter.

Several years ago Terry C. Muck asked, "Is there any other way to do theology?" He added, "A cogent argument can be made that to do theology is to do mission. An even more cogent argument can be made for the reverse: That to do mission is to do theology." Muck suggests that at every point in church history where significant debates about important theological matters occured, these debates were actually preceeded by a cultural clash that challenged some church teaching and this clash forced a more definitive theological formuation in the process. This seems self-evident to me.

I preached today on "The Conversion of the Church" from John 20:21, at Church of

By |October 29th, 2006|Categories: Missional Church|

A Visit to GTU

GTU is the Graduate Theological Union, a fully accredited association of theological schools situated in the San Francisco Bay area. I visited GTU yesterday with my friend Andrew Sandlin. We went to look for that special book that we have not yet found! We enjoyed a gorgeous day, with a sunny blue sky and temps in the low 80s. We also enjoyed an incredible lunch with Andrew’s son Richard, a wonderful, thoughtful and tender-hearted young man who recently completed his B.A. in philosophy at Cal. Richard is now beginning preparation to pursue his doctorate in philosophy. I have no doubt that he will make a first-rate teacher someday.

GTU is an intriguing place. You can study subjects like art and religion, biblical languages, biblical studies, Buddhist studies, Christian spirituality, ethics and social theory, Jewish studies, Near Eastern studies and systematic and philosophical theology. They have just about every thing you could want in the field of religion. And you are across the street from Cal Berkeley, a world class university, where you can also take classes. GTU draws from traditional Christian roots

By |October 28th, 2006|Categories: Religion|

The Growing Stature of Barrack Obama

Barrack Obama, the junior senator from my state of Illinois, is presently the most talked about politician in America. I am not sympathetic with some of the political philosophy of Barrack Obama. If he is nominated for the presidency in 2008 he will most assuredly need to present a thoughtful expression of his views on many issues, something he has yet to do. Having said this I must confess that I actually like Obama a great deal and I find his credibility as a person quite compelling.

I expect many conservatives will quickly say to me "No way I can listen to Obama, he is a liberal Democrat." I would say, "Before you assume the worst about him, and there is much to disagree with that can be seen in his senate votes to this point, read the man’s story. Listen to what he says and how he says it." Obama’s expression of how he came to Christian faith (in this week’s TIME magazine excerpt from his new book, The Audacity of Hope) is quite moving to me. Frankly, Obama is someone

By |October 26th, 2006|Categories: Politics|

The Politics of Jesus?

We have had a book called God’s Politics, by Jim Wallis. Now we have one called The Politics of Jesus, by Obery M. Henricks, Jr. Does anyone on the Left, who so freely decries the Right for their excessive claims to truth, ever stop to think that they have no more claim on God’s truth than the Right does? While the Left assaults the Right for partisanship they continue to produce books that tell us "How to rediscover the true revoltuionary nature of Jesus’ teachings." The hubris in such a claim is quite staggering. Hendricks spends most of this book arguing that the two primary culprits in our lifetime, men who both attacked the true revolutionary teaching of Jesus, were Ronald W. Reagan and now George W. Bush. Surprise, surprise!!!

Former moderate Republican senator John Danforth (MO), an Episcopal priest, gets a lot closer to the truth in his new book, Faith and Politics: How the "Moral Values" Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together. Danforth suggets that it is simply wrong to equate "faith with political agenda." The Right has

By |October 25th, 2006|Categories: Politics|

An Interview I Enjoyed

I am in Newark, Delaware, this weekend in order to speak at the 20th anniversary celebration of Glasgow Reformed Presbyterian Church. This afternoon the pastor, Dr. Charles Betters, arranged for an interview session with Bryan Chapell and myself. I hope to put this interview on our Web site soon. Bryan is president of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis and one of the finest preachers, and teachers of preaching, in America. I am always encouraged by being with Bryan. He is a solid conservative thinker and a genuinely kind and Christlike man.

A good bit of our interview focused upon the emerging generation and the opportunities and potential problems that we see in these younger Christians. Bryan noted that he has rarely met a group of Christians more committed to evangelism. He also observed that this generation will need to pursue personal holiness more intentionally if it is to make a real difference in the future. They are a generation completely comfortable with relational commitments. They also embrace real conversation while they are totally suspicious of cant and technique. We both welcome a

By |October 21st, 2006|Categories: Personal|

Donna Shalala's Willful Blindness

The University of Miami has become a great football powerhouse over the past twenty years or so, winning several national championships. It has also earned a reputation for problem athletes and bad behavior, both on and off the field. Last Saturday Miami lived up to this reputation by engaging in one of the most brutal on-field episodes of fighting that I have seen in my lifetime. Players from Miami and Florida International University, an upstart big-time college program, exchanged blows for several minutes and created a huge battle on the field that made for rare, and disgusting, video footage.

Florida International University announced this week that it would suspend all the players involved in this fight indefinitely. Almost everyone agreed this action was appropriate. Miami decided to suspend all but one of its involved players for only one game. The one game is agianst Duke, a team Miami could beat without half its team. This punishment is so minor that everyone near the sport is stunned.

So, how do you explain the leniency of this action by the University of Miami?

By |October 21st, 2006|Categories: Current Affairs|

The iPod Revolution

As I road the Metro underground in Washington, D.C., this week I was struck by how much the iPod revolution has impacted people under 35 in age. I estimated, on about six or seven different trips that I took on the subway, that three of every young adults around me (unless they were talking to someone else) was using an iPod on the train. This is astounding when you consider that this technology was only introduced a few short years ago. It has impacted the emerging generation so profoundly that I concluded that if you want to talk to this group of people you had better consider podcasting as an important tool. I already put the ACT 3 Weekly into a podcast and intend to do more podcasting in 2007 in order to use this growing resource to reach younger people with the message of Christ’s Kingdom.

By |October 20th, 2006|Categories: Personal|

The Work of Renewal & the ACR

I have the inestimable joy of serving on the Association for Church Renewal (ACR). This group existed for many years as an ad hoc committee of various renewal voices in the mainline denominations. The reason these men and women met over the past twenty-plus years was primairly for encouragement. (Encouragement is a real need when you seek to be faithful and prophetic in this culture.) When I began to work closely with mainline churches and institutions in the late 1990s I was invited to be part of this group by the leader, Dr. James Heidinger, IV. Jim leads the marvelous Methodist work for renewal and reformation called Good News. He is a refreshingly gracious and kind man who loves the whole church but has a real passion for revival in his own church, the United Methodist Church.

The reason I was in Washington, D.C., this week was to attend the semi-annual gathering of the ACR. This particular meeting could have been historic as we began a process that may lead us to make ACR more institutionally formal and visible. We believe, after

By |October 19th, 2006|Categories: Renewal|

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