In his book, Church History In Plain Language, author Bruce Shelly gives four reasons why Christianity grew to such an extent in its early history that it became the dominant religion of the Roman empire in little more than 300 years after its founding. As I read through what Shelly identified it occurred to me that these same traits are also necessary for a Christian to truly grow in his faith and multiply himself with others. What are these four traits? Shelly defines them this way:
1.) Early Christians were moved by a burning conviction
2.) The Christian gospel met a widely felt need in the hearts of people
3.) The practical expression of Christian love was probably among the most powerful causes of Christian success
4.) Persecution, in many instances helped to publicize the Christian faith
First, let’s define what these things mean, then look at our western culture to see if we have them today, then look into our own hearts to see what occupies that space. Continue reading
A recent news story out of Mongolia implied that Mongolian Christianity may have reached, or is reaching majority status in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, compared to the growth of Buddhism, shamanism, and other traditional beliefs. The conclusion of the article is at best misleading and I have to wonder why it was written the way it was. The article notes that the growth in the number of churches (buildings and house churches) has far outpaced the growth of other religious temples and buildings. The implication is that traditional Mongolian beliefs are under threat.
Is the growth of Christianity perceived as a threat to Mongolian society?
Reaching majority status implies legitimacy, especially in a culture like Mongolia. If Mongolian Christianity were to approach a true majority status then Mongolia’s traditional and folk religions would certainly be under threat.
But political or societal legitimacy is not the primary goal of church growth. Such legitimacy can often damage church growth instead of aiding it. This is a catch-22. Achieving political influence can help protect the rights of Christians and contribute to church growth, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the so called majority are really following Christ.
I don’t see the reported growth of Mongolian churches as a fulfillment of the Cultural Mandate (Genesis 1:28), and I don’t see it as genuine Christianity reaching majority status. Here’s why. From a research project we conducted in 2011 we learned that: Continue reading
In the recent weeks I’ve taken a large number of professional and personality assessments to help me hone in on what my greatest strengths and desires are so that I can know what kind of ministry assignments I should pursue. I want to know what I can do that fits me best. Perhaps you want the same thing?
During one assessment my coach explained to me, “Tom, you are all about belief. Everything you do you do because you believe in God’s will for your life and you pursue it. For you, nothing happens by chance.” When she spoke that to me I was in hearty agreement. But sitting in the back of my mind was another reality. What if I’m called to do something I don’t want to do? Would God do that? How would my nature of belief be affected?
In fact, contrary to the popular notion that God doesn’t call us to do something we are not equipped for, I find in scripture that God often calls men and women to do things that, normally, they have no business doing. But God is God. He is sovereign. He can do that. So let me provide a few examples from my own study and show that when God calls us he often calls us to do things that hurt us, cause us anxiety, and perplex us. But he’s God. He can do that. And if we obey him we will be the better for it.
Here’s goes. Continue reading
A few weeks ago I attended a dinner event hosted by Cru President, Steve Douglass. During the event Steve remarked that from what he is seeing, the fulfillment of the Great Commission is inevitable.
What is the Great Commission? It is the command given by Christ following his resurrection. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Now, to be honest, I never thought in those terms before. The fulfillment of the Great Commission is inevitable? Is that right? Yes, it is right. God does not embark on missions in which he is doomed to fail (Isaiah 55:11). The Great Commission is his idea and no task God has undertaken has ever fallen short. Consider these two passages of scripture about the inevitability of the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Continue reading
Often, when a person first comes to Christ, in that initial moment of salvation there can be a sense of relief, release, and joy. The fact that we are freely forgiven by God through his grace can be a wonderful experience. But, later as we begin to grow in our faith and realize what it is we have, our thoughts turn toward those we love who have not had an experience with Christ. Out of love we want them to come to the same truth that has been revealed to us. We also think of those who have died before us, who were without Jesus, lost forever because of their rejection of him. Grief can settle in, wishing things were different. When we think of those alive, still with us, we desperately want them to know what we now know. But they resist the Holy Spirit and it seems to us like they will never come to Christ.
Is it our fault? How can we ensure that the Gospel reaches them? Am I guilty if they never come to faith in Christ? Am I responsible for their salvation?
Allow me to speak to this issue from the scripture, then I’d like to give you three points of application that might help you in your struggle with loved ones who don’t know Jesus. Continue reading
In the last chapter of his book, Why There Is No God, author Armin Navabi takes on the phenomenon of extreme skepticism. This is an argument, which states that it is impossible to really know something, or for our perceptions to align with reality, if there is such a thing as reality. Navabi explains, “If we cannot truly know anything, then anything could be true.”
Navabi does not argue in favor of extreme skepticism, he actually argues against it as a proof for God. This is a bit puzzling because it is not the evangelical community, which makes this argument. Any Christian with a decent understanding of the Bible should know this. But let’s take a look at a couple of claims that Navabi shares and see why extreme skepticism in an extremely dumb way of looking at the universe. Navabi uses color as an illustrative tool. Continue reading
If a renown smart person ridicules your faith in God, does his intelligence make him right? According to Armin Navabi, author of Why There Is No God, smart people don’t always get things right when it comes to religion. On this, we can heartily agree.
Smart people can be wrong. Yet, we use smart people and celebrities to push our products or views all the time. Just because Stephen Hawkings is considered the greatest mind of our day, does that make him right about spiritual things? Just because Neil deGrasse Tyson is smart and has a popular TV show, should we trust what he says about religion? Just because Albert Einstein was the most brilliant man of the 20th century, does that mean his opinions about spiritual things hold heavy water?
Using celebrity endorsements and smart people to advance our views is a popular tactic in getting consideration for whatever agenda we may have. People listen to such celebrities. But that doesn’t make them experts or correct in their views. Truth is something to be discovered and revealed. It doesn’t come packaged in a celebrity endorsement. Navabi himself, falls into this trap. After arguing that smart people aren’t always the one to be listened to, he goes on to say, “Atheism is much more common among scientists as among non-scientists.” Continue reading
In his book, Why There Is No God, atheist author, Armin Navabi argues that fear is not a proper motivation to believe in a religion—especially as one nears death. Navabi states, “The idea that fear could drive you toward the belief in God only goes to suggest that religious claims are commonly fear-based and not rooted in actual logic or evidence.”
Fear is a legitimate motivation for religious belief. To say that the use of fear means a faith is not rooted in actual logic or evidence is forgetting that fear motivates us in many areas of life—and we are the better for it.
Some people decide not to commit crimes for fear of punishment. Parents routinely use fear as a tool to help keep their children safe: look both ways when crossing the street, don’t touch a hot stove, don’t talk to strangers, don’t play with knives. Fear is commonly used for our benefit. Are parents irrational for using fear as a parenting tool? Continue reading
In his book, Why There Is No God, author Armin Navabi attempts to use semantics to claim that atheism has not influenced atrocities committed by secular tyrants.
“History if filled,” he says, “with examples of the religious who beliefs were directly responsible for murder and violence.” This is a true statement. Many religious people have committed horrible acts that were influenced by what they believed. However, this does not mean that their beliefs were correct, or that their beliefs were accurate representations of their faith, such as Christianity.
There is no command in the Bible that orders the death of people simply for not believing in Jesus Christ. In fact, violence as a form of religious coercion is forbidden in scripture. Navabi cannot demonstrate how biblical commands directly lead to murder. But it can be demonstrated that there are commands in the Quran to commit murder based solely on what a person believes. But Navabi forgets to make this distinction. “The violence within Christianity or Islam can often be traced back to the teachings of those religions because it is embedded in the ideology of the religions themselves.” This is flat out wrong, and frankly, a lie. Navabi cannot show a single passage of Christian scripture that does this for the simple reason that it does not exist. Christianity has no embedded violent doctrines. Continue reading
In chapter 16 of his book, Why There Is No God, author Armin Navabi refutes the ideas of martyrdom and dying for one’s religion as a proof of God’s existence. He notes that people of all faiths have died for their religions. Those deaths don’t prove that God is real. If the Hindu dies for his faith, does that mean what he believed was as real as Christianity?
There is one group of people whose deaths actually do make a case for the testimony of the Bible. Their deaths are a type of proof for God’s existence. Who were these people? The apostles of Jesus Christ. Continue reading