Tag Archives: David Alan Black

We Can Be the People Who Tell the Truth

5:18 PM Hello blogging friends,

I trust you’re doing well. I’m sitting here nursing a head cold and trying to grasp the significance of what our nation just experienced. But first of all I want to join President Obama and Secretary Clinton in congratulating Mr. Trump on his election victory. I also promise to pray for him as he begins his term of office. As President Obama put it today, “We’re all rooting for his success.”

As you can probably figure out, I’m pretty much a conscientious objector when it comes to the Left/Right political wars. I guess I’m a self-described “misfit.” I call myself neither a Republican nor a Democrat. Unlike some of my fellow evangelicals, I came out neither for nor against Mr. Trump. This kind of politicization within evangelicalism is nothing new. On the Right we hear that we are to vote for the platform and not the person. But on the Right we also hear that we are to vote on issues of personal morality and not merely on pragmatic ones. Hence the dichotomy: some evangelical Republicans were enthusiastically supportive of Trump, while others were adamantly opposed to him. Growing up, I was taught that Republican is always right and Democrat is always evil. That, to me, is a distinction without a difference. I think Russ Moore nails it when he says that, after yesterday’s election, we evangelicals are “to maintain a prophetic clarity that is willing to call to repentance everything that is unjust and anti-Christ, whether that is the abortion culture, the divorce culture, or the racism/nativism culture.” In other words, be an equal-opportunity offender. He adds:

We can be the people who tell the truth, whether it helps or hurts our so-called “allies” or our so-called “enemies.”

He’s right. How can we defend a so-called “Christian” America that is hypocritical, homophobic, anti-immigrant, sexist, and bigoted? We can’t. Nor can we invoke a social gospel that ignores the personal gospel of faith in Christ. I believe that Left or Right, there’s an awful lot of corruption in politics. And the best way of addressing these issues, as my colleague Chuck Lawless put it today in his essay 10 Reflections on Today’s Election, is to acknowledge:

I am to be a good citizen of the United States while recognizing that the U.S. is not my final home. I am to stand for righteousness today even as I await the return of the Son.

I’ll add this. As far as I can see, I don’t think that past political dichotomies such as “Left” and “Right” matter that much to the students I teach. Younger evangelicals find themselves operating more and more outside of the traditional evangelical apparatus. For instance, younger evangelicals are more likely to have a gay friend than their parents and therefore tend to be more sympathetic to the gay rights movement even as they reject homosexuality as a sin. Ditto for issues of creation care and economic justice. They’re willing to probe theological and cultural issues that tend to be unwelcome in more established and traditional churches. They’re watching movies like Hate Rising. This means that at times they feel out of touch with the evangelical establishment. As I see it, this is a positive development. What we are seeing is the development of ordinary, rag-tag radicals who fear that both the Christian Right and the Christian Left have been allowed to pervert the gospel message and are determined to speak up about it. “Vote for so-and-so because he believes in Jesus as his personal Savior and supports ‘our’ values” no longer cuts it for them. They view such language as overly-politicized. And they’re not the only ones. Our evangelical “elders” have also struggled to make sense of the current scene in American politics – witness Wayne Grudem’s initial support of Trump as a “morally good choice,” then his taking a 180 degree turn from that position, and then finally expressing his support for Trump’s policies.  This sense of uncertainty and ambivalence is dramatically reshaping the evangelical political agenda in the U.S. In such situations, the church may have an opportunity. To quote Moore again:

The most important lesson we should learn is that the church must stand against the way politics has become a religion, and religion has become politics. We can hear this idolatrous pull even in the apocalyptic language used by many in this election—as we have seen in every election in recent years—that this election is our “last chance.” And we can hear it in those who assume that the sort of global upending we see happening in the world—in Europe, in the Middle East, and now in the United States—mean a cataclysm before which we should panic.

Moore insists that such language “is not worthy of a church that is already triumphant in heaven….”

The church must be, as Martin Luther King Jr. taught us—the conscience of the state. But we do that from a place of gospel power, not a place of cowering fear. That means that we—all of us—should see this election as important for our country, but not ultimate for our cosmos.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. The good news is that one day Jesus will win, not only all 50 states, but every tribe and nation. I for one am looking forward to that day. Meanwhile, having shattered the monopoly of the mainstream media and the political establishment in Washington, Donald Trump has revolutionized our entire view of evangelicalism. His “revolution” has shown that the old guard’s influence on the evangelical political agenda is still alive and well. This may well lead to new and profound changes in the way we American evangelicals conceptualize our role in society. I doubt, however, that younger evangelicals, the “ordinary radicals,” will be deterred in their efforts to develop a kinder, gentler form of evangelicalism. After all, they have begun traveling the downward path of Jesus. They’ve also begun reading their Bibles. And that is a very dangerous thing to do.

Staying centered in Jesus,

Dave

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission. David Alan Black is the author of a number of Energion titles, including The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and his most recent Running My Race. )

Cessationist or Continualist?

8:32 AM Are you a cessasionist or a continualist? I want to go on record and affirm that I am a passionate continualist.

  • I believe we ought to continue the pattern of simple, radical, life-style evangelism begun in the book of Acts. After all, it worked for the early church.
  • I believe we ought to continue bearing a humble, faithful, and consistent testimony to Christ, as the early believers did. Let moderns appeal to the sensational and spectacular; even the early church knew of signs and wonders. But the greatest work of the church has not been the spectacular but rather the faithful day-in and day-out living of normal everyday Christians.
  • I believe we ought to continue the pattern of church discipline as practiced by the early church and call out “play Christians” that only go through the motions thinking they are Christians but unaware they are only pretending. When the secular press begins to mock our inflated membership statistics, isn’t it time we did something about it?
  • I believe we ought to get out of our cozy churches and put Christ on display in the world’s darkness where we are needed. For the early Christians, the field was the world, and the corn of wheat had to die if it was to please God and bear fruit. Why, then, do we sit around debating theological puzzles when we ought to plant our lives in the ugly soil of the world?
  • I believe we ought to continue the emphasis of the New Testament upon every-member ministry, since we are all priests – every one of us – of the Most High God. No church in the New Testament had a single pastor who did all the work. If you have such a leader in your church, fire him – and then hire him back immediately as your CEO, “Chief Equipping Officer” (Eph. 4:12).  
  • I believe we ought to continue the early church’s rejection of blind patriotism. The only Christian nation the Bible knows is the blood-bought, born-again purchased people of God.
  • I believe we ought to follow the example of the apostle Paul and eschew the excellence of human oratory and any appeal to human wisdom. Nothing about the Gospel pleases this world – nothing! – and we are never so foolish as when we try to dress it up in the garish garments of this age.
  • I believe we ought to continue the example of the early church and reject position and power as the measuring sticks of success. Why should we seek prominent seats in the kingdom when our Lord promised us not seats but suffering? Obedience cost John the Baptist his head and Jonathan Edwards his pulpit. What has it cost us?

So … are you a cessasionist or a continualist?

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and  Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

Opposing Government Bureaucracy, But What About the Church?

12:13 PM Steve Scott’s latest essay is a real winner: Evangelicalism: Government Programs vs. Church Programs. Steve points out the irony that those Christians who want smaller and smaller government are often the same Christians who want more and bureaucracy in the church. In my book The Jesus Paradigm I referred to this as the “FDR-ing of the church.” Steve writes:

Continue reading Opposing Government Bureaucracy, But What About the Church?

A Primitive Ecclesiology

As you know, I’m involved in writing projects up to my eyeballs. One book I am currently writing is called Godworld. (I think I’ll subtitle it something like Enter at Your Own Risk). Over the past few days I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this topic. Emerson once noted in his Journal that “Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.” For many years a considerable portion of my time has been devoted to the problem of ecclesiology. Being stubborn by nature and a professor by training and education, I hold to the notion that the status quo is rarely acceptable. John Wesley wanted his movement to recover the full message and power of what he called “the Primitive Church.” He was an ardent student of early Christianity. Wesley also studied the Anabaptist groups and the Moravians. Wesley and his followers knew that awakening interest in the church without bringing people to pursue Gospel living was a waste of time. When pre-Christian people talk about “church,” unfortunately they often refer to people whose alien language and jargon have nothing to do with the real world in which these same people live. Christians dress and act in abnormal ways. Their traditionalist churchianity is a language no one seems to understand. The New Testament, by way of contrast, calls Christians to “exegete” the culture that God entrusts to them and to indigenize their faith — witness the 18th century Methodists who wrote Christian hymns to be sung to the tunes people loved to sing in the public houses. As for missions, the New Testament calls all of us — clergy and laity alike — to live out our faith in our mundane professions. (Few are called to seminary!) We are to penetrate the culture for Christ and thus fulfill the second commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The love of which the New Testament speaks is not so much a feeling as a disposition of good will and service toward others, including people outside our own social networks, nationality, and race. We are to love others as God does. It is just as important that we love the lost as it is to believe that Jesus died for our sins. Growing into the likeness of Christ is essentially “downward mobility.” Because people matter to God, they matter to us. The goal is not mere conversion but bringing people to full devotion to Christ. Evangelism is therefore normative for God’s people. It is simply living and sharing the amazing good news about Jesus in one’s own sphere of influence. This is the process I want to be involved in. It is the process of entering this amazing Godworld — and doing so at our own risk! I want to be involved in this Godworld, not because I am a professor in a seminary, but simply because I am a follower of Jesus.

“Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.” I would not pretend that I am yet consumed with a love for the lost as Jesus was. I have, however, begun to travel this downward path of Jesus. Just as all Christians have been joined to Christ and participate in His life, so all Christians are called to the ministry of witness and invitation.

Think about it.

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and the forthcoming Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

True Homeland Security

7:10 PM Good evening, thoughtful bloggers of cyberdom! I want you to meet James. I thought of James while we were discussing Epaphroditus in Greek 3 class on Tuesday. James was my translator when I trekked among the Guji tribe in southern Ethiopia a couple of years ago. At the time he was a young and optimistic 24-year old, freshly graduated from the university. All who knew him loved him. His smile was infectious and so was his passion for the Gospel. Well, when Jason Evans (one of my elders at Bethel Hill) and I decided to minister among the Gujis, we needed a translator, but not just any translator.

Continue reading True Homeland Security

Equipping is not Delegating

7:55 AM Equipping is not delegating. Think about it. Pastors who think they are equipping may only be delegating.

  • They enlist the help of other members but only to assist them do their own ministry.
  • They focus their training not on lay ministers but on pastors-in-the-making. (Think pastoral internships.)
  • They regularly express from the pulpit their hope that some members will hear the “call of God” to go to seminary and enter “fulltime Christian ministry.”

Continue reading Equipping is not Delegating

6:02 AM Off to “regions beyond” (2 Cor. 10:16). Why? I’ve discovered that upward mobility is a downer. I’m haunted by the idea that God can take average everyday people like me and use them for His purposes. There was nothing special about the 70 whom Jesus sent out two by two. And I imagine they were scared to death to be sent too. But they did what they were told to do, because Jesus was their Boss. So they girded up their loins, tightened up their sandals, took a deep breath, and away they went, elbows swinging with every step, preaching, teaching, healing. And it worked! Miracles happened because He was with them.

Serving Jesus is like making a 60-yard touchdown run. (Yes, God plays football.) And the ball’s in our hands. Let’s get out of our holy huddles (especially those of you who have the “perfect” church) and run a play or two for Jesus. Yes, you will get scraped up (or beat up — ask Paul!) along the way. But it’s pretty hard to deny the need that is out there.

By the way, there’s no sense in playing unless you expect results. Don’t limit your playing field to the stained glass aquarium (or to your living room). Jesus is building His church worldwide, and He wants to use you. That’s why you’re here in the first place. Serve Jesus and there will be pain. Live for yourself and there will be pain. There will be pain either way. So why not get your pain working for you rather than against you? Let’s unleash foot soldiers for Jesus. Don’t need to go across the world to do this either. Know how to bake a pie and take it to a neighbor? Welcome to the mission field!

We’ll, enough preaching for one day. (I have a feeling you’re a member of “the choir” anyway.) As I leave for the airport I feel very much alive. The birds are singing, and the donkeys have started munching the grass (donkeys don’t “graze”; they “munch”). God has provided all of this and a good deal more — the stars, the sun, the breeze, wives and husbands and sons and daughters and “infants to sweeten the world” (to use a phrase from an ancient prayer). I am but a tiny speck in the universe, a ripple on the ocean of life, yet God does not overlook me, cannot in fact, because He created me, redeemed me, even promised He would never leave me nor forsake me, taught me to trust Him when I was only 8 years old, a mere child but old enough to realize that we are not doomed to meaninglessness, even in the wilderness of loneliness, even when “God’s megaphone” (C. S. Lewis) of pain shouts to us, despite my keen sense of past failures, my blindness, my selfish isolation. It is heartening to think that even when the work seems so daunting, even when I feel so inadequate, I can still be a vessel bearing the life of Jesus — the way that James Fraser gave himself to the people of China many years ago because God had called him to forsake selfishness and to cease to live for himself, or the way Jim Elliott taught the Aucas what God’s love looks like by dying for them. I have been given a small assignment, but no assignment is small when God assigns it, when it helps to complete the quota of Christ’s sufferings, when we say YES to what He requires of our journey with Him simply because it’s the journey He wants to share with us. And so —

“We follow, now we follow — Yonder, yes yonder, yonder. Yonder.”

— Gerard Manly Hopkins, The Golden Echo.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)

A Legacy of the Greatest Generation

From Dave Black Online:

9:18 AMOn this, the 67th anniversary of D-Day (our invasion of Nazi-occupied France), I can’t help but reflect on World War II. My parents’ generation has been called “The Greatest Generation” because they fought the Nazis and mobilized for the Cold War. What we forget is the fiscal burden they placed on their posterity, producing an American political system that seems utterly incapable of tackling any big multigenerational problems, including our national debt. America has entered an irreversible downward spiral. We had better understand this new era we’re entering. Continue reading A Legacy of the Greatest Generation

Life is Too Short to Live for Temporal Dreams

6:44 PM Lloyd Ogilvie, one-time chaplain to the U.S. Senate, once had a serious accident while on study leave in Scotland. One afternoon he was walking on the beach when he fell between some rocks and broke one of his leg bones. Almost fainting with pain, he managed to crawl for several miles until he found help. The break required many months of recuperation in a hospital in Scotland.

During that time Ogilvie confronted what he called the “seduction of the secondary.” Alone with his pain, and away from the strain of his work, he was reminded of the preeminent need to have a close walk with God, to live for the Gospel, and to find his identity solely in Christ and not in any other human being. Continue reading Life is Too Short to Live for Temporal Dreams

4:40 AM What my trips to Ethiopia have taught me:

  • Practical Christian fellowship calls for help when it is needed and not merely when it is asked for.
  • Believers are, and always will be, saints together, regardless of race, nationality, political affiliation, or denomination. Yes, I said denomination.
  • If I want to serve God I must never dash ahead of Him in impetuous enthusiasm nor lag behind Him in double-minded unbelief.
  • Only when I apply the truth to my own life diligently can I prove my Christian discipleship to others, Ethiopians included.
  • I must live sacrificially for others. Only then can I can rightly reflect the one who “though He was rich yet for our sakes became poor so that we through His poverty might become rich.”
  • Missionary work is non-stop, 24/7. To call Sunday the “Lord’s Day” doesn’t mean that the other days belong to me.
  • Spiritual warfare is never easy, and we are likely to get hurt. But the final victory is ours.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)