April 1, 2020

When the “Reached” are “Unreached”

UPDATE: I had to close out the discussion when the two infallible versions of Christianity started talking to each other. Since I can’t buy either one of them, I got annoyed.

(If you are one of the people assigned to monitor this blog and report anything unusual, I’d suggest you might want to drive to a store in the next county, get a soft drink and take the scenic route back. This probably isn’t going to be a positive experience.)

Last night, my wife and I ate dinner in our ministry cafeteria, and over our table was a poster left by ladies of our local Baptist church who had a missions study and prayer breakfast there each morning the previous week.

The denominationally produced poster, to be brief, proclaimed that nearly all of South American was “unreached.”

Now if you are not an evangelical or a Southern Baptist, let me attempt to translate this for you.

In simplest terms, this means that the vast majority of people in South America are not Christians and need to be evangelized, and one of the reasons for this is that 79% of South Americans are Roman Catholics who, according to the IMB web site, “practice syncretism” and “rarely attend church.”

The benchmark of being reached is being in an evangelical church. That’s clear enough. I’m all in favor of more evangelicals in South America, and I hope they win all the syncretists and people who have abandoned their Catholicism to a vibrant evangelical faith.

They have a big “amen” from me to preach and teach the Gospel and encourage others to do the same.

But if the default position is that Catholics aren’t Christians, because they aren’t evangelicals or Southern Baptists, I want to call that worse than unfortunate. It’s sincere, but it’s the opening act for bigotry.

My wife now faces the irony that a denomination she loves and whose missionary zeal she still endorses views her as probably “unreached,” right here in Kentucky. (Actually, when you go from evangelicalism to Catholicism, you need a special name. Maybe “No longer reached.”)

Southern Baptists are pretty sure Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans and all other infant baptized, liturgical Christians are among the “unreached,” at least as groups.

But does it ever occur to anyone to ask if South America is the only place we find “syncretism?” That’s practicing Christianity and the local religion at the same time. Hmmmm?

I believe I’ve seen that a bit closer to home. We call it the Prosperity “Gospel” here. Or the “culture war.” or “Christian politics.”

And then there’s this matter of never going to church. Are we sure that Southern Baptists- with 10 million MIA- or any evangelicals at all, really want to talk about who actually shows up regularly for worship?

I think that our Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Orthodox friends could make a case that, based on our own criteria, we’re pretty “unreached” in Bible Belt America.

There’s nothing more indicative of our arrogant spirituality than this self-assured confidence that we can dismiss whole groups of Christians as “non-evangelical,” i.e. probably not Christians at all. Christians are what we are. And we know them when we see them by their special behaviors.

We need more of the Gospel around the world, in every denomination and among every people group. And that starts with those Christians who think it’s their job to judge whether other Christians really are Christians at all.

And for our first assignment, how about Southern Baptists figure out what the Good News of Jesus and his Kingdom is, and whether it’s an offer a person can get in on if they aren’t a Southern Baptist evangelical?

Comments

  1. Willoh,

    I understand your frustration and the pain you must have gone through during those emotional and painful events in your life.

    Closed communion can be frustrating to understand – not from an intellectual level but from a spiritual and emotional level. The Catholic Church considers the Eucharist to be the true body and blood of Jesus and denies communion to those who do not believe in the real presence. It should be noted that the Eastern Orthodox are permitted to receive communion on the Catholic Church for this very reason. I believe that Anglicans and Lutherans may one day as well but currently do not. Eastern Orthodoxy has closed communion to all including Catholics. I believe Mike Spencer has mentioned in other blogs that Southern Baptists practice closed communion for different reasons. It is not purely a Catholic thing.

    As for you not being able to preach at a funeral – I’ve seen Methodist ministers give words at a Catholic Funeral Mass – so it may just be the priest in that particular parish.

    Grace and peace to you…

  2. Jim Hedrick says

    I will confess Southern Baptists are not very careful with their thinking process,word choices or theological foundations. We often speak condescendingly and uncritically. Denominational journalists or catalog/prayer guide wordsmiths are usually unbearable. Pathos and Pathetic often go together in pursuing much written down denominational excellence and loyalty.

  3. Eric,

    My understanding- which is usually corrected by three different Catholics saying different things 🙂 – is that 1) Those anathemas apply to those who separated from the church, not those born into Protestantism. (I have some issues with this, but frankly, it’s not the position of the church today, and if I believe the strength of Protestantism is being able to be wrong and make changes, then I have to let RCs do the same, even if they won’t admit that’s what they are doing.) 2) We are joined to the church by baptism, the Holy Spirit and desire to be part of the one, true church of Jesus. 3) Not being in communion with the Bishop of Rome isn’t the same as Luther’s assessment of the Bishop of Rome.

    peace

    MS

  4. Willoh:

    I’ll never commune with my wife again, so I share your disgust. But I can’t answer those questions comptently.

    ms

  5. Willoh,

    The real world has a high level of “suck” factor, don’t you think? We are ingenious at finding ways to cut ourselves off from the grace of Christ. We divide ourselves off from God and one another using the gift of Scripture in blindingly inventive ways. When my child turns her back on the love and sustenance of her family, we all suffer for it. But her mother and I keep a place open at the table, and hope she will again come home to share the blessings that are hers. When a fellow Christian denies me, it hurts. But again, the table remains open. To be hurt without wanting to strike back is a worthy goal. To be hurt and turn the other cheek, only to be struck again, and then to turn the cheek again, and again…….one can hope that love will win out. In the end it does, doesn’t it?

  6. MDS,

    So, the apostle John should not have made an issue with the Gnostics? They believed in Jesus, just not that he was physical. Sounds like John was drawing some sort of doctrinal in/out, true/false circle.

    And what about Jesus himself in Revelation and His condemnation of the Nicolaitans (whoever they were) and their teaching. They were apparently part of the churches, but not truly regenerate.

    I have no intention of saying all Catholics, Protestants, Mormons or JWs, are saved/unsaved. But I will say that their various ecclesiastical authorities teach doctrines that cannot be reconciled to each other. Someone has to be wrong.

  7. JohnB55200:
    I assume all of us are wrong about a lot of things all the time. I don’t trust in my theology, but in a living faith in a living Christ. If my map is wrongly drawn, that is an issue and should be corrected. But life isn’t all polemics and apologetics.

    Clearly it is extreme to say that those who accept Jesus-believing/trusting, Apostle’s Creed-accepting brothers and sisters as fellow Christians is the road to accepting gnosticism. Worst case scenario?

    No one is rejecting the role of doctrinal difference. Some of us are questioning the usefulness of making doctrinal statements superior to personal faith and persons of faith.

    ms

  8. Katy (formerly kat-1) says

    Headless Unicorn Guy asked “Who was their pastor — Screwtape?”

    No, I think it was Cromwell.

  9. Again, I am not questioning people’s personal faith.
    All of us can take hope in the RCC doctrine of “invincible ignorance.”

    I am speaking only of the official doctrinal pronouncements of various Christian groups and the fact that many of these doctrines cannot be reconciled.

    Given this, I have been thinking about Pascal’s Wager.

    Perhaps only Catholics can really win.

    A Catholic can be accepted by the Protestants as saved, despite doctrine.

    And we all get in to a Mormon heaven since there is no hell.

    And, if the JWs are right, and we are wrong, we just get annihilated w/o punishment.

    The only real losing scenario is to be a Protestant who rejects the RCC (and the RCC is right.)

  10. JohnB5200,

    I agree with you here. I tend to latch on to the more ancient teachings of the church as being those that are safest for defining and delineating what the true content of faith is. In personal discipling, I strongly emphasize the historical and orthodox teaching of the church. It is of utmost importance who it is we worship. We are forever inventing God in our own image.

    But one of the most important ways people come to know the true God is by hanging out and eating with people who know Him. I’m not saying there is no such thing as false teaching. Only that the process by which people come to know the true God is often outside that which I believe is possible. And so I tend to try to leave the door more open as opposed to less.

    On the other hand, I’m pretty hard on Christians. The further into the house we are, the more critical it is that we learn to judge ourselves. I often end up angering secure Christians because I push them toward insecurity. I joke that my calling is to puncture peoples pomposity. It’s a fairly low calling, but someone has to do it.

    Anyway, you and I probably disagree less than it seems. These blogs are not very conducive to deep theological discourse, and it is way too easy to misunderstand one another. But it does seem to be worth something somehow.

  11. Correction! My response was to JohnB5200’s comments preceding the one directly above my comments. Another discussion occurred while I was writing.

  12. “It is the vain repetition that Jesus warned us about, the hearing and not doing… Do you think we could apply that to the mass, the rosary, the hail Mary, etc…”

    Bill, you’re showing yourself here, and it’s not pretty.

    Do you REALLY think that Catholics pray in vain? Do you really believe that are prayers constitute “the hearing and not doing”? Is it your position, truly, that Catholic belief is so benighted?

    If it is, you evidently live on a different planet than I do.

    “It is the official doctrinal positions of the church itself that damn people to hell. It does not teach the biblical Gospel.”

    I’m assuming you’ve got a doctrinal position that informed you of this. You, of course, probably assume that ‘knowledge’ of our damnation has nothing at all to do with the culture you’ve grown up in – I bet you’re sure the Spirit told you this. The irony is suffocating – please, give up this lame position before you die?

  13. Patrick,

    The context of this post was originally South America and I was speaking of what I witnessed there over a period of several years and many subsequent trips. As has been stated several times above, I too see a difference between American Catholicism and the South American variety that is the actual subject of this post.

    You tell me, what is the Christian purpose of riding on a city bus, cussing like a sailer, yet doing the sign of the cross when you pass a church?

    What is the Christian purpose of camping out for ten weeks on the street to be able to enter a church on a particular saints day? (Hint – millions in Argentina do this yet never have any other contact with a church)

    What is the Christian purpose of walking on your knees 40 km just to hopefully have God answer your prayer?

    What is the Christian purpose of hiding a Grim Reaper idol in your hand while the priest blesses you just so you can hopefully have a good death?

    What biblial basis do you find in a Catholic woman saying, “You evangelicals think it’s all about Jesus, but we know it’s all about Mary.”

    I could give you many more examples to justify my above statements. I stand by them and pray your life and faith are true to Scripture.

    My background is Swiss-German and English. I grew up liberal Presbyterian and liberal Episcopalian and was looked upon as a fool by my family for being baptized as a Baptist. I am Baptist because for the most part they take Scripture seriously. I’m not talking to you based on cultural basis or ignorance but from Scripture. My hearts desire from this is that nominal evangelicals and nominal catholics would come to Christ in repentance and faith. Please seek Him according to Scripture, not tradition.

    Bill

  14. “You tell me, what is the Christian purpose of riding on a city bus, cussing like a sailer, yet doing the sign of the cross when you pass a church?”

    “What is the Christian purpose of walking on your knees 40 km just to hopefully have God answer your prayer?”

    “What is the Christian purpose of camping out for ten weeks on the street to be able to enter a church on a particular saints day?”

    Ask God to remove the plank lodged in your eye so you can see the purpose more clearly.

    That’s a Scriptural reply, but I bet it doesn’t jibe well with your traditional understanding of what worship, devotion, Christian faith, and Christian hope are supposed to look like.

  15. Bill:

    Do we need to run the evangelical version of your list?

    I’m too tired, but evangelicals outdo Catholics by miles in silliness and useless religious excess.

    ms

  16. I think I have vaguely heard of the group Allpa Yuraq, but my favorite was a group called La Semilla.

    Please note that I did not disagree that many in Peru needed to know the Lord. My point was that there are ways to do evangelism that do not necessarily savage another Christian ecclesial community (sorry, could not resist).

    There are so many people who do not go to any place where Christians congregate, that I need not use up much time trying to grab those who are already regularly worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ (and His Father, and the Holy Spirit). Do I believe that all who are worshiping in another ecclesial community are in just as good a place as I am? No, I do not. They need to come to the Church.

    However, and this is very important, should I not worry more about the person who is clearly lost without any hope or should I waste time worrying about he/her who is regularly attending an ecclesial community and is regularly studying Scripture and is regularly praying? You can tell my choice. I would rather go after that thoroughly lost person and let the Lord take care of those who are His.

    We do argue about the Church. Catholic and Orthodox each say that we are the Church, and we mean it. Both of us say that there are non-Church communities that are filled with Christians. Protestants strongly disagree. Those arguments will not be settled anytime in the near future. But, to repeat, there are ways to evangelize that do not savage those who are clearly His. I suspect that that was iMonk’s point.

  17. Deep sigh over the fact that when the Savior collects His bride He will find her psychotic, divided, and self loathing. They say I am SBC, I say I am Christian and will accept no other label. We ask people to police themselves as they approach His table. There are very serious and downright scary words in scripture that we read to that effect, but to judge if one is worthy to eat The Bread of Life is far beyond my skill set, and I pity anyone who would take that responsibility. BTW Don’t ever tell me there is no “Real Presence” in my matza and grape juice, it is the realist thing I know. We all need to examine ourselves, with fear and trembling please.

  18. To Father Ernesto – The reason for that may be that unlike you we do believe that you are part of the Church, however in schism you do have valid orders and true sacraments.

    To Clark – I was born in Pery, I lived in Peru and I can tell you that the Catholicism of Lima, Chimbote, La Sierra, La Selba or Los Andes is the same as the one of Rome.

    Oh and Peru has no “mother godess” mythos in its indigenous folklore.

    To iMonk – in the 1700 I can’t remember which Pope, condemned Catholics from refering to Protestants as non-Christians. The definition of who is a Christian and who is not is well documented way before Vatican II.

    Mormons and Unitarians are not considered fully Chritian by the Church.

  19. Back to the point, American churches need to work in their own back yard, much undone. Someday I pray we will all realize the mission field is in the pews in front of us. If you don’t think they have needs you need to get to know them.

  20. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Headless Unicorn Guy asked “Who was their pastor — Screwtape?”

    No, I think it was Cromwell. — Katy

    I don’t think so. Cromwell was 17th Century (English Civil War) and the Great Famine was early 19th.

  21. Well said imonk. I agree that evangelicals have just as many superstitions and silly practices. I am impressed that your blog has so many streams of Christianity represented. We rarely have the opportunity to discuss things with anyone except our own “variety”. Perhaps that’s why your topic sparked such discussion. I am sorry if I offended anyone today. Patrick, I am asking the Father to remove any beam in my eye. I did not intend to judge but am concerned that there are those that are deceived. Jesus made it clear that few will enter and the way is narrow. My concern is that the Church has lost and is losing the biblical Gospel. Evidence for this is all around us, even in some of the replies today. We should be much more concerned with what the truth is and praying that all true churches would preach the truth. Once again, I plead with readers to go to the Word of God and read it for yourselves.

  22. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    “It is the vain repetition that Jesus warned us about, the hearing and not doing… Do you think we could apply that to the mass, the rosary, the hail Mary, etc…” — Bill

    What about the sixty choruses of “Just As I Am” during a Baptist/Revivalist/Evangelical Protestant Altar Call?

    And do you HAVE to “Pray the Sinner’s Prayer” using the exact wording (whatever it is) or it won’t take?

    And ending every extemporaneous prayer with the rote repetition of “in Jesus’ Name, Amen?”

    Bill, why are you serving up the watered-down anti-Catholicism? Why don’t you serve it up straight on the rocks? “Mystery Bablon System”, “Nimrod, Semiramis, and Tammuz”, “Satanic Death Cookie”, etc? I’ve seen that brand of “Bible-Believing Christian” close-up, and it almost killed me.

  23. Do we need to run the evangelical version of your list? I’m too tired, but evangelicals outdo Catholics by miles in silliness and useless religious excess.

    Imonk: By miles? Patrick quantified his comment with some specifics that were pretty “out there.” I’ll admit we evangelicals can be strange at time, but what’s an example of the evangelical silliness you had in mind?

  24. Paul Wilkinson: In Baseball terms, we’d say you just floated one in my wheelhouse. Turn around and watch the ball leave the park 🙂

    Judgement House
    Contemporary Christian Music Divas
    Joel Osteen
    TBN, especially the hair
    Prosperity preachers
    Lying Faith healing crooks and the gullible millions who follow them
    John Haggee’s eschatology
    Left Behind
    Left Behind video games
    Harry Potter Haters
    Abusive parenting techniques
    Christian t-shirts
    Christian bumper stickers
    Thomas Kincaid devotionals
    Claims that God turns teeth gold
    The Laughing revivial
    Todd Bentley
    The Creation “Museum”
    Bible Land Amusement Parks
    Gigantic statues of Jesus
    Fear of Pumpkins

    Shall I go on?

  25. First, the last time ( and it really may be the last time), that I darkened the door of an evangelical church except for a funeral wedding or relation doing a solo, on the edge growing in your face church our position was that Catholics, Methodist, probably most Church of Christ and Pentecostals, and for sure Easter O’s were in need of saving not to mention all of the near godless liberals in the Lutheran and Presbyterian camps. This was less than 15 years ago. Things may have changed. I suspect they have for the worse.

    Second, check out willoh’s web site especially in context of where pastor/preacher/con-men etc. might need to be.

    Isn’t it some kind of miracle that all of the Joel Osteens, Rick Warrens, Steve Stroopes, Ed Youngs never seem to be called to the Wyoming Valleys or Peruvian outbacks of the world?

    Wow!

    Why would that be?

    Just as and aside, like many things, we have an abundance of huckster preachers in Texas. Please, if you need one take him or her.

  26. imonk, I agree with your list of silly evangelical practices, but if you go back to your article on “why Calvin is cool”, you will see that most of our arguments about why this discussion is so important have been made there by you. This is a discussion about the Gospel.

  27. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    IMonk: You missed these —

    Left Behind: the Comics
    Left Behind: the Movies
    Left Behind: the Kids (YA series, 40+ volumes)

    Smiling Cross
    “Harvest Festivals” (Just like Halloween, except…)
    Zion Births (very dangerous)
    Fred Phelps

    Mike Warnke
    Johana Michaelson
    Constance Cumby
    Angel feathers falling from Heaven
    Shaking Stacy
    And Crazy Preacher Lady with the Holy Ghost Enema.

  28. iMonk- I don’t think that Protestants have silly pratices of their faith, Altar Calls are somewhat on the edge for me personally but I still would not call them silly.

    The list you seem to be thinking of is a list of theological believe. In which case I would agree with you.

  29. Silly is the least of it.
    Buildings are filled every weekend with folks who have heard the illitereated 3 F’s of a happy and stress free work day but know ittle or nothing about the gospel of Christ.
    Revelation 3:15-21

  30. Bill, before you let yourself get too concerned about how diluted you imagine the Gospel is over on our side of the pond, you need to consider the grace and sound advice that Jesus was offering us ALL when he told us to let the wheat grow next to the weeds and that God would sort it out.

    If you’re suspicious of our team, of ANY part of our people or our practices, that’s your problem, and I’m going to throw a flag on any “well-intentioned” Protestant attempt to come into our field and pull our weeds.

    If you want to keep your private judgments that Catholics are Being Lied To or that we worship Mary or whatever, you can at least do what Jesus told you to do and keep them PRIVATE. Your haunted reservations about our church aren’t going to get you any ‘Amens’ around here.

  31. Bill:

    I occasionally hear Lutherans say they possess the perfect theology of the Gospel, but I’m not prepared to say that. I’m with N.T. Wright: Some of what I believe now is wrong. That’s what I believe about the RCC. The Gospel is there, in the midst of some stuff that’s wrong.

    “Calvin is Cool” no longer represents a lot of what I believe. That should be pretty clear to regular readers.

    Some of our understanding of the Gospel is at stake. I agree. There’s reasons I won’t be a Catholic. But I am not prepared to say that the Calvinistic Gospel is the only correct Gospel.

    ms

  32. Ok, I’m confused—Catholics:
    a. pray to Mary
    b. believe that taking sacramentss give them salvation.
    c. believe in purgatory.

    All three are not only unbiblical but also demonstrate a fundamental misnderstanding of the truth of the gospel. Why on earth would you NOT consider them lost and seek to present the true gospel to them.

    It’s called the Great Commission.

  33. Joe, since I’m married to a Catholic, I hope you’ll realize I’m going to actively moderate this kind of discussion.

    Praying to Mary as Mary, not as God is an error, but it doesn’t constitute not being a Christian.

    If you think evangelicals don’t have sacraments that they believe deliver salvation, then what can I say. What is the sinner’s prayer and walking the aisle?

    I’d like to introduce you to the Lutherans, Orthodox an Anglicans in the room as well. Are they lost? Church of CHrist? Are they lost? Starting to sound pretty Southern Baptist to me.

    C.S. Lewis and lots of other Protestants have believed in some version of purgatory. I consider it an error. I don’t think an error makes you a non-Christian.

    Southern Baptists and Calvinists are just as error prone, and they are still Christians too.

    Ever met a KJV onlyer?

    MS

  34. Illegal Participation, Joe Blackmon is commenting on stuff he should be Googling. That’s 15 yards.

  35. Joe, I completely agree with you. This entire discussion is about the Gospel.

    imonk, I’m new to the blog world but your post really struck a nerve and has had me thinking and praying all day. My theology is not perfect but I pray I am biblical in what I believe and growing in grace.

    Patrick, yes, there will be both wheat and tares in the world, but the whole point of this article is preaching Christ to the tares. Read 1 and 2 Timothy and see how important truth was to Paul. I have no hesitation in humbling and lovingly proclaiming truth from Scripture whenever I see error. As Luther said to the council, here I stand, God help me, I can do no other.

  36. We all want to proclaim the truth from scripture. We all want to evangelize every person, starting with ourselves.

    I don’t want to call a Christian a non-Christian because I am ignorant or because they are in error on some matter. I am both and I plead the blood and the grace of God in the Gospel. You don’t have to say it the same way I do or belong to my church to belong to Jesus.

    I also believe scripture when it tells me that I should not judge as if I were God, which is what makes me quite nervous about saying the apostles’ creed with someone and then saying they are damned because I don’t like what someone says in a theology book they’ve never read.

  37. Bill, developing some hesitation might be in your best interest. In other circles, we call that kind of thing “humility”.

    My church is not “the tares”. Even the Catholics who are caught up in one local fixation or another are not corrupt – they don’t need your arrogations and pretense to The Truth to ‘improve’ their relationship with God. That’s His business. And they’re OUR community, not yours. Not your bees.

    There’s no council for you to stand in front of. You’re not Luther. You’re just some guy who thinks he knows better.

  38. iMonk said – “Southern Baptists and Calvinists are just as error prone, and they are still Christians too.”

    Just as error prone? No doctrine/practice is closer to the truth than any other? Or further away?

    The sinner’s prayer, “Just as I am” and altar calls are on par with praying to Mary, transubstantiation and purgatory?

    You may be right. But if you are, then why resist becoming Catholic?

    If Catholic=Baptist=Lutheran=Anglican=Methodist
    =Pentecostal=Orthodox, then could you give me any reason not to swap my equally erroneous beliefs for those of Rome?

  39. Imonk,

    have you ever done a blog on exactly what the Gospel is? I think that, for many Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, “the Gospel” is the Penal Substitution theory of the atonement articulated precisely a certain way. This definition, would of course, exclude not only RCs and EOs, but many in the Wesleyan tradition as well (which some Calvinists don’t have a problem doing). Is the Gospel just a formula? Is it really just correctly articulating Penal Substitution, because when I hear accusations of “denying the Gospel,” that’s usually seems to be what it’s about.

    Personally, I think the Gospel’s a lot bigger than that. N.T. Wright has really expanded my thinking on this topic, but of course he’s an arch-heretic in the afformentioned circles.

  40. imonk

    We’re not talking about being in error on “some matter”. To compare a “sinners prayer” to praying to Mary even as Mary is laughable. Did the “sinners prayer” save anybody? No. But if they prayed it with a repentant heart and truly confessed Jesus as their Lord and place their faith in Him would God save them? Um, yeah.

    That same bible that talks about “not judging” as you call it also says that if someone is in error we should love them enough to share the truth with them.

    Not everything is right. Not everything is true. Not every way leads to heaven.

  41. iMonk wrote:

    I don’t want to call a Christian a non-Christian because I am ignorant or because they are in error on some matter. I am both and I plead the blood and the grace of God in the Gospel. You don’t have to say it the same way I do or belong to my church to belong to Jesus.

    I took a historic theology class at Wayland Baptist University a couple years back. The most important thing I took away from studying the various fights over the various pre-reformation heresies was the professor’s question that went something like this: “Is salvation a matter of doctrine or a matter of faith?” Sure, error and heresy should be corrected. But does that mean that we have the right to sit in judgement over a person’s faith and salvation? Hell no!

    Or, to quote Steve Brown, “50% of what I’m telling you is wrong. I’m just not sure which 50%.”

  42. Fear of pumpkins?
    Otherwise, I concede that round to you. Many of the examples you gave reflect things done “from the stage” while Bill’s original examples reflect things done “in the trenches.” It’s one thing for me to do absurd things on the platform, but another thing if I hypnotize you to do strange things in the audience. But I’ll grant there’s some overlap on both lists.

    What must all this look like to those outside either faith circle? No wonder so many are pursuing a personal form of Christ following.

  43. Jenny Bluett says

    “What is the Christian purpose of walking on your knees 40 km just to hopefully have God answer your prayer?”

    Umm, sortof like sitting by the master’s table and waiting for scraps.

    Sortof like trying to make your way through a crowd just so you can touch the master’s garmet.

    Sortof like climbing a tree because you are too short to see the master walking by.

    Sortof like going to a tomb WAY early in the morning to annoint the master’s body.

    Sortof like … faith?!

  44. Joe:

    You are well aware that you’re misrepresenting my position. To say that I accept someone as a Christian is not to say that I have no concept of truth.

    I just leave the infallible grasp of truth to the pope. I find it rather amusing among evangelicals.

    peace

    ms

  45. Jenny Bluett says

    Hey, can’t we just all agree and put up a big ol’ map of Utah and maybe consider sending in a plethora of Nicene Creed confessin’ Trinitarians and overwhelm the Mormons by our love for one another ;O)

    Well wait, isn’t it strange that we would do well in learning a thing or two from their example of love? My Mormon friends and acquaintences are some of the most caring, generous individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

    Jenny

  46. Jenny,

    if you believe the ‘right’ theology, you can pretty much give up faith entirely and start, as Joe Blackmon does, loving people by arguing with them about their erroneous, damning beliefs. It’s called Holiness.

    When you’re full of Holiness, you don’t do stuff like visit Jesus at the tomb or climb trees to get a look at Him. Jesus left you a manual. Your job is to go around correctly applying the words in the manual to the lives of other people. IF you’re sure you said your Sinner’s Prayer right, anything you say to people is going to be guided by the Spirit. Don’t worry if the people you run into have their own copies of the manual – Jesus doesn’t speak through them, he speaks through You. You’ve got it right.

    Just act as you would normally act around people who are hopelessly wrong and need your input more than they could ever know. That’s your ordination – it’s how everyone will know you’re full of Holiness.

    True Christians blame God for Holiness.

  47. There’s got to be some Nobel Prize in Mathematics awaiting the person who can graph out the exact moment a comment thread goes from thought-provoking to boiling a bunny crazy. Instantaneous mutation.

  48. This post is about reaching the unreached. I’m not sure we are going to reach folks this way.

    What is truth? “I’m not sure but it’s in the church/bible and I’m sure you don’t have it.” Without love we are clanging bells.

  49. Christopher Lake says

    I’m a “de-converted Catholic,” and Baptist by conviction, who is currently a member of a non-denominational church in a fairly Roman Catholic part of the U.S.– Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Whew, that was a mouthful!) My roommate is a 45-year-old “cradle Catholic” who (he would claim, at least) came to truly know Christ and understand His Gospel in his late twenties, after many years of being out of the RCC. More than a few of my fellow church members are also cradle Catholics who would claim that they never heard the Gospel in the RCC. It may have been there in the Scripture readings, but it wasn’t explained or applied in the homilies.

    My question is, what are we to think of such people– former Catholics, many of them raised in the Church, who would themselves now say that the RCC does not preach and teach the Gospel? I know that there is much silliness and lack of Gospel preaching within evangelicalism today, including in many SBC churches (my own denomination by personal conviction, if not current church membership– long story). However, how many former evangelicals would make the blanket statement “Evangelicalism does not preach and teach the Gospel,” as my former Catholic friends say about the RCC?

    Were I and my fellow church members simply going to the wrong Catholic parishes? I don’t remember hearing the Gospel preached in the Church when I was a Catholic. I know that I hear it in my current church. Are there Catholic parishes that truly preach salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, with works being a *result* of that salvation, while not playing a role in *meriting* it? I would like to think that this is the case. I just haven’t seen it myself. I do think that there are Gospel-believing Catholics. I just hope that they have come to that place, at least partially, through the preaching and teaching of their Church (world-wide and local).

  50. I think of them what I think of the hundreds of people I’ve met in life who grew up in Protestantism and say they never heard the Gospel.

    I hear people say they go to Baptist churches and never hear the Gospel.

    Wait….that’s me. I hear Baptists preach every day and I’m lucky if I hear the Gospel twice a month. I hear law law law law law morality morality culture war culture war. God, and rarely Jesus.

    ANyone who wants to indict the RCC has got a mountain of Protestantism and evangelicalism to explain. Just because some of us are trained to feel better about our denomination (SBC) doesn’t mean we aren’t in shocking decline.

    In fact, if you want to hear the BIBLE read in large sections and the WORDS of the Gospel used in liturgy, I wouldn’t suggest the average Baptist church. You’ll hear a verse and a sermon against gay marriage.