Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Week in Review

Book Review – Radically Unchurched (part 2)

Alvin Reid achieves his intended purpose of showing the state of the church in how she responds to the unchurched. While part of the purpose was to show what churches lack, the main point was to show her how to turn this situation around. Reid makes some basic assumptions regarding the behavior of the church and the culture. He indicates that the church evades the culture (p. 37). He confirms that the Bible does tell believers to be separated from worldliness, however he also admonishes his readers that Jesus’ command is for believers to impact the culture with the gospel (p. 37). Per Reid, the church cannot maintain a stance that evades the culture.

Reid argues that the church tries to pervade the culture. He presents that these are the ones who do battle and seek to overpower the culture by might. He argues the battle is not between unchurched and churched people but between the forces of God and the forces of the Devil (p. 38). Reid’s conclusion is this cannot be a way that the church tries to reach the unchurched. Finally he presents the church as trying to invade the world. This method is one that Reid believes is best because it represents Jesus who invaded the world through his incarnation (p. 39). Reid’s conclusion is that in order for the church to penetrate the culture of the radically unchurched, it must be the power of God at work. It will be more than a change in perspective or desire for the church to invade the culture. It will take the church radically abandoning herself to God (p. 40).

Reid presents as evidence of his stand that a changed life can make a difference in the unchurched culture. He shares several stories about people who stood for what is right and based on that decision, later became some of the greatest influences in the lives of others; one of those was Christ (pp. 56-57). The purpose of these stories was to show how significant one person could be in the lives of people. Reid also illustrates that it will not be the one individual that changes the world, but the entire body, the church. This he says is how the world and the culture will be changed; when the individuals of the church bond together and work as the body should.

I cannot find anything in this book that I disagreed with. In fact, it is refreshing to see Reid’s candor and straightforward approach in his book. He outlines some of the problems that the unchurched have with Christians. One area in particular is the rudeness of believers. For example, he states we make a joyful noise at church but we are rude to servers in restaurants (p. 69).

One section that was interesting was how he explained the post-modern world and its effect on individual’s views. His overarching theme in this section was that the church cannot continue to “do” church the same way if she desires to reach the unchurched (p. 85). Reid posits with this information that revival throughout history has generally started with the young. This was a new learning for me. I believe Reid’s purpose for distributing this information is to awaken the church to involving the young people in the direction of the church. The old thought of the youth as the “church of tomorrow” has to be replaced with the thought that the youth are the “church of today” if any changes are to occur. Reid states that an effective foundation must be laid for the youth that includes teaching them to pray, to study the Bible, to witness, sharing in corporate worship and finally raising the bar for our youth (pp. 103-104). Reid’s plan for reaching the unchurched is done through a clear message, the giving of our testimonies and narratives, worship that draws unbelievers into an encounter with God, employing creative ways to communicate Christ and finally intentionally planting new churches that have the goal of reaching the unchurched (p. 107).

Reid’s book is one that a pastor or minister should read to have a better understanding of what the unchurched culture looks like. This book can be helpful to a leader as he or she prepares to develop ministries and outreaching tools. This book can also be helpful for Christian Education leaders. Reid’s continual admonishment is for the church to be more involved in evangelism. This book can help a church prepare its teachers first so they can be equipped to incorporate evangelism teaching into their curriculum. This book would also be useful for the average believer that is interested in keeping current on the affairs of the culture and ways to penetrate the world for Christ.

This book contributed to my understanding of the subject by showing me how the church must hold to the unchanging truth while being flexible to change those things that keep the unchurched from seeing the relevance of the church. Reid was clear in his presentation of the church’s need to utilize the New Testament pattern to be effective in a culture that sees the church as out dated and irrelevant. Armed with this information, any church can make radical steps to reach the radically unchurched.

(Come back next week for part 3, my reflection)

The Week in Review

Essay #4 – 1 Corinthians 8:7-13

Paul is speaking to the people regarding purchasing meats that had been used in the worshipping of idols. The heathens would make a feast of the sacrifices (the meat) they had offered and they would invite their friends to partake in this event. What was left belonged to the priest who sometimes sold the meat in the markets (1 Corinthians 10:25).

Paul first addresses that some have the understanding that no idol is above God, but this knowledge is not enough. Instead Paul is asking his audience to understand that love is where the decision process should begin and not simply from what one knows (or thinks they understand). Some understood that food sacrificed to idols would not stop them from having closeness with God. Paul reminds them that everyone does not understand this fact. Some were still accustomed to idols and when they ate such food their conscience was weak and they felt they were defiled.

Paul also states that if you eat food sacrificed to idols, you are no better than those that do not eat. Yet he gives a warning to those that feel free to do so. Paul warns to be careful as you exercise your freedoms. If one’s freedom causes another to stumble, then one is to rethink the freedom they exercise. If a brother or sister is weakened by the things one does, then Paul reminds them it is sin against Christ if they continue to do even that which they have the freedom to do.

Paul was talking about meat but it can also be applied to other areas of our lives in our day and time. The requirement Paul was setting before the people was to do things from the love of God and one another and not simply because of ones understanding on a matter. In verse 1, Paul says knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. When ones actions are based on the love for another, then one will be willing to give up the liberties for the sake of the others faith.

I have an example of this application for our times today. I teach Sunday school class for teenage girls. Several Church organizations were hosting events at a local Black Muslim restaurant. I refused to go and several people did not understand nor appreciate that I would not be involved. I had to explain to them I could not participate in good conscience. I knew I could eat the food and not be swayed to worship the religious beliefs, yet I knew that these young girls were looking at me as an example. If I would go to eat at this place, I could possibly be setting them up to be confused. They could have begun to feel that because I was eating at this place, I was giving my approval of everything about their way of life.

I later found out this was in fact the belief of some of my students. One of my students was confused about why the believers were going and thought it was okay to listen to the things they taught. I then took the student to this scripture and let them know that is why I refused to go, not because I could not, but I did not want to be the reason for anyone’s confusion or stumbling. I did not want to be the cause of another losing their place in God. I did not want to knowingly cause someone hardship. If one loves God then that is the place where one’s actions regarding others will come from. My love for my student’s welfare was more important that my freedom to go and eat.

Paul calls this behavior a sin against Christ. If we looked closer to our actions and realized that when we become what causes another to stumble, I believe we may look at our freedoms differently.