Archive for the ‘Evangelism’ Category

Looking for just the right gift for a preacher? Consider Warren Lathem and Dan Dunn’s 2008 book, Preaching for a Response: Leading New Believers into Spiritual Maturity, published by Bristol House. preaching-for-a-response2

The authors (Lathem has served as a pastor, district superintendent, and seminary president; Dunn has been a pastor, associate pastor, and missionary) know how to declare biblical truths in ways that elicit a clear response from listeners — a skill neither learned in seminary.

From the book:

These authors have a collective 17 years of formal theological education.

Yet never in those years did anyone attempt to instruct either of us in how to preach for a response, how to give the invitation for a response, or even why we ought to find a way to invite and encourage a response….

[But r]esponse is inherent in the gospel and the gospel preacher who does night invite response is not being completely faithful to the gospel.

Other excerpts:

How many sermons are preached, how many worship services are conducted in church all across America without any thought being given to a response by the hearer? How often do preachers and worship leaders prepare a great banquet, set it before the people, entice them to this gospel feast with beautiful words and music, yet never say, “Come and get it”?…

We may delude ourselves into thinking that just because the listener recognizes the need to respond, that he or she will know how to make a proper response to the gospel.

More likely, without direction, guidance and invitation from the preacher, most will simply make no overt, conscious, intentional response, and by failing to do so will in fact reject the message they just heard….

Why do most mainline preachers fail to issue an invitation or give an opportunity for response? There are several possible reasons….

  • We do not really believe people are lost…
  • We do not believe the power of the gospel…
  • We do not know how to invite a response…
  • We would not know what do if they did respond…
  • Our order of worship does not accommodate a response…
  • We are fearful of the opinion of others…
  • We do not take preaching seriously enough….

Preaching for a Response includes advice about “what to say” and “how to say it.” The chapter “Twelve Keys to Effective Preaching” emphasizes the basic building blocks of effective speaking — such as maintaining strong eye contact, using varied pacing, employing short sentences, and ending strong.


Warren Lathem


Dan Dunn

The book also includes detailed suggestions on how to plan worship services, week after week, aimed at eliciting responses that move people toward maturity in Christ.

You can order Preaching for a Response here (Amazon) or here (Bristol House).

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The following post is by the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, the flagship renewal ministry of The United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Rob Renfroe

He is also the pastor of discipleship at The Woodlands UMC, a 9,300-member congregation in The Woodlands, Texas.

From 2007 to 2009, Rob Renfroe served as president of the board of The Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.

He is a past member of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to members of the Southwest Texas Conference, encouraging SWTX evangelicals to be faithful to the the Gospel and to continue in the work of renewing their Conference. I mentioned this year’s General Conference and the issue of homosexuality only briefly.

Afterward, I received a Facebook message about my talk from the pastor of a “reconciling” congregation in Austin, Texas.

For non-Texans, let me explain that Austin is Texas’ most liberal large city. Its adopted motto, seen on bumper stickers everywhere, is “Keep Austin Weird.” The University of Texas is one of the most “progressive” universities in the state, if not in the country.

The pastor who contacted me serves a church just off the UT campus. In his note, he reiterated an assertion I had heard many times at the General Conference in Tampa: If we don’t change our stance on homosexual practice, “we’re going to lose the young people and the church will have no future.”

In my response to him, I related a true story:

Ten years ago we had a young man on our staff at The Woodlands UMC. He was one of our youth workers and we all loved him.

But we know he wouldn’t be with us long. He had a Baptist background and felt God wanted him to start a new Southern Baptist congregation. He is from a small East Texas town, he is more conservative than any of the pastors on our staff, and he is a proud graduate of Texas A&M University.

A contextual note for non-Texans: A&M is as conservative as UT is liberal. And they are fierce rivals! I continued:

Would you believe that Matt felt called by God to start his new Southern Baptist church in Austin to reach University of Texas students? Makes no sense, right? But he followed what he believed God called him to do.

Now, 10 years later, Matt’s church — Austin Stone — has 3,500 persons in attendance each weekend. I did some checking and it turns out that this one conservative church has half as many people worshiping with it every Sunday as all of the UM churches in Austin put together.

If a liberal, progressive Gospel was going to be effective anywhere, you’d think it would be in one of our most liberal cities with one of our most progressive universities. But [liberal Christianity simply is] not reaching great numbers of people, young or old, where you would expect it to thrive.

So, no, I am not afraid that if we preach the truth with love that we will lose the young people or doom the future of the church. I think God honors churches that are faithful to his word and I believe the Gospel still has the power to convert and save the lost, no matter their age.

If God can use a conservative Baptist Aggie to reach liberal UT students, we don’t have to worry about the Gospel. It can take care of itself.

Our hope is built on…?

What is the UMC’s hope for the future? Our hope is not a progressive gospel that denies the cross or the authority of God’s Word. Our hope is not liberal pastors who adopt current cultural values because they don’t want to offend the beliefs of 18-year-olds.

Rather, the hope of the United Methodist Church, and of the world, is Jesus Christ — his life, death, and resurrection. What is needed is UM pastors who will be faithful to proclaim the truths of God’s Word — to the young, to the old, to all.

Related posts
Rob Renfroe of Good News on General Conference 2012
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
Podcast: Rob Renfroe on ‘The Truth About God’
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
UM renewal leader: ‘The UMC is worth fighting for’
Podcast: Rob Renfroe on ‘The Deeper Issues of Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Charles Keysor – ‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’

Related articles and information
Religion and the bad news bearers (“[A] study by the Barna Research Group [erroneously] claimed that young people under 30 are deserting the church in droves.”) | Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson, The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 26, 2011)
On flocking (An essay refuting the notion that “young people will flock to the churches [if] churches [forsake] the original objects of their existence.”) | G.K. Chesterton, All is Grist (1934)
The deeper issues of United Methodist renewal | Rob Renfroe, Good News (via The Sundry Times)
45 years of vision for United Methodist renewal and reform | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (web posted May 2012)
Compromising positions | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May-June 2011)
What do United Methodists expect from their bishops? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
Should the UMC change its ordination standards and allow sexually active homosexuals to serve as clergy? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
In pursuit of truth | Rob Renfroe, Good News (January/February 2011)
Believe, experience, and increase | Rob Renfroe, Good News (June/July 2010)
Grace and truth (video) | Rob Renfroe, Asbury Seminary Chapel (April 13, 2010)
Speaking the truth in love | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2009)
For the cause of Christ (PDF) | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May/June 2009)
Defining the issues: A Methodist witness | Albert Mohler (Nov. 1, 2006)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church (ordering info) | Thomas C. Oden, Baker Books (2006)
The story of Good News: A recollection by Charles W. Keysor (PDF) | Good News (March/April 1981)
The Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

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With a goal of fostering “flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ,” the Fellowship of Presbyterians, a group of more than 500 theologically conservative congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has unveiled a new “denominational entity”: the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO). The official unveiling occurred at a Jan. 18-20 Covenanting Conference in Orlando, Fla.

The new entity will work with like-minded congregations that decide to remain part of the PC(USA) or choose to cut ties with the older denomination.

“The Fellowship offers three different options for affiliation so congregations can pursue what best honors their ministry context,” according to a news release (PDF) from the Fellowship of Presbyterians.

“The options are: affiliate with the Fellowship as a ministry association (involves no change in status with the PC(USA)); pursue a union membership with the PC(USA) and ECO; and join ECO as full members (requiring dismissal from the PC(USA)),” the release said.

In an address introducing ECO, the Rev. John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, said the new denomination was created to help local churches become more effective in making disciples.

You all know what has been going on in mainline denominations, including our own — shrinking memberships and fading churches and aging clergy and lessening evangelism and a preoccupation with survival and internal strife and external irrelevance.

And it is not just theological drift….

[But w]hat if God were to raise up a movement? What if [the] torch for a thoughtful, reflective, urgent, egalitarian, globally active, culturally engaged, Jesus-centered, evangelical faith [were to be] wed with courageous, innovative, bold, risk-taking, bold entrepreneurial ministry leadership? And the torch of this faith were to burn more brightly in this generation than in the last one?

John Ortberg

We’re not talking about a safe, easy, reassuring step from one denomination to another as a way of expressing denominational displeasure….

Purity by separation has been tried before. If the new entity that we talking about is only that, it will just deteriorate a little more slowly….

[But i]magine God were to launch a movement of Spirit-led, Jesus-centered churches where pastors and leaders took seriously the biblical injunction to become teachers of the nations, so that our world and culture could hear in Him that there is such a thing as moral and spiritual knowledge that can guide human lives….

Imagine that the claims of Jesus were to receive a fresh hearing our day because they were being expressed in thoughtful, winsome, non-churchy, literate ways by Jesus followers who had wrestled and studied and prayed, and sought to follow Jesus with all of their hearts….

Imagine a movement where church meetings and denominational meetings never waste anybody’s time…. Imagine a movement that when leaders gather together, it is to learn and to receive vision and to mentor…and to be accountable and to encourage one another….

Imagine that when leaders get together they talk about things like: How do you reach people who don’t know Jesus so they can get to know Jesus? How can you worship better? How can you help the under-resourced people more effectively? How do you make disciples? How do you do justice?….

Can God not do that? Has the Holy Spirit lost His power?

As we…have talked and prayed about a new denominational entity, the idea, the prayer was that it be not just a denominational alternative — [but] that there might be a structure that could be a vehicle and a servant of a movement….

The job of a denomination is the serve the local church, not the other way around…. And the idea is…real simple: to build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Because the church really has one job — to make disciples, followers, of Jesus.

Streaming video of Mr. Ortberg’s full address is below. A downloadable mp3 audio file is here (18 MB).

Related posts
United Methodists are well-liked, but to what end?
Call to Action member: We must foster vital congregations or ‘we do not have a future with hope’
Podcast — George Hunter: Can the once-great Methodist movement become a movement again?
‘Assessment’ report: United Methodism faces compound crisis
Riley Case: ‘Operational Assessment’ shows UMC has lost its way
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops

Related articles and information
New evangelical Presbyterian body unveiled | Michael Gryboski, Christian Post (Jan. 21, 2012)
Conservative Presbyterians launch new denomination | Daniel Burke, Religion News Service (Jan. 20, 2012)
A bold church unafraid: Fellowship casts vision | Leslie Scanlon, Presbyterian Outlook (Jan. 19, 2012)
Introducing ECO: the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians | Carmen Fowler LaBerge, The Layman (Jan. 19, 2012)
Fellowship of Presbyterians unveils name for ‘new Reformed body’ | Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service (Jan. 19, 2012)

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The following commentary is by Riley B. Case, associate executive director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.

Dr. Riley B. Case

Dr. Case served for many years as a pastor and district superintendent in the UMC’s North Indiana Conference (now the Indiana Conference).

He is the author of Evangelical and Methodist: A Popular History (Abingdon Press) and has served as a delegate to five UM General Conferences.

This opinion pieced was originally published in a slightly longer form in the Confessing Movement’s e-publication, “Happenings Around the Church.”

Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com. — Ed.

It is nice to be liked. United Methodists are well liked, at least according to a recent survey (PDF) by Southern Baptist-affiliated LifeWay Research. Sixty-two percent of Americans have a “favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinion of United Methodists.

This is compared with favorable opinions of  59 percent for Roman Catholics, 53 percent for Southern Baptists, 37 percent for Mormons, and 28 percent for Muslims.

New survey, but nothing new

Over the years, several surveys and studies have reported somewhat similar results. Methodism, at least for the past 100 years, has reflected American popular religious culture. Methodism gave to the country gospel hymns, Mother’s Day, chicken-and-noodle suppers, and “the right hand of fellowship” (traceable back to campmeeting days).

United Methodists are middle-class. They are common, ordinary people. They do food pantries, deliver Christmas boxes, and always cooperate in the community Good Friday services.

While some denominations are regionally concentrated, United Methodists are everywhere.

In every state, in almost every county, in almost every little community and even in the open country, there are United Methodist churches, sometimes big brick churches with steeples, sometimes little frame churches.

The teachers, the owners of small businesses, the farmers and the skilled workers are very often United Methodists. United Methodists are the backbone of the Rotary Club, the home ec club, and the Girl Scouts.

Methodists through the years have been good citizens, good neighbors, and have been optimistic about the future of the country.

So, there is no surprise that most Americans think favorably of United Methodists.

United Methodism has a well-established ‘brand’

Much is made today of “branding.” United Methodism has it. The American public’s good impressions about The United Methodist Church ought to work in our favor.

Those of us who work with evangelical renewal groups within The United Methodist Church deal continually with pastors and lay people who want to opt out of United Methodism. It is dead, liberal, hierarchical, and bureaucratic, they say. We in the renewal groups urge people to stay.

There are a number of reasons why some of the greatest opportunities for ministry are in The United Methodist Church. The UM Church has the doctrine and the polity — to say nothing of the money — to be an influence for good in the world.

Because of Methodism’s favorable impression many people seeking a new church home will give the local United Methodist Church a try. They may not stay, but at least Methodists get a chance.

When I was an active pastor doing house-to-house visitation (a lost art these days, I am sorry to say), I was always accepted — even with strangers. United Methodists just by the name have a “foot in the door”; they just need to “make the sale.”

A downside to our popularity

Christians should beware when all people speak well of them — especially in pagan territory. During its early years in England and in America, Methodism was a despised sect.

Methodists were enthusiasts (too excitable); their camp meetings were out of control; their preachers were uneducated. They sang “ditties” instead of stately hymns. They offended people by talking to them about their souls. They opposed “worldliness,” which included Sabbath breaking, dancing, card playing, gambling, alcohol, and fancy dress.

For the first 75 years of their presence in America, Methodists would never have won any popularity polls. But Methodism grew. From 1784 to 1850, a period known generally as the Second Great Awakening, Methodism grew from 3 percent of America’s religious population, to 33 percent. It was in part because Methodism during this period thought it better to be despised for the gospel than to be respectable in the world.

It is time for the church to come up with something better than “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” as its slogan.

A better approach to making disciples?

It is time to talk about informed minds and changed hearts — and the narrow doors on the path that leads to life.

The UMC’s current emphasis on vital congregations is fine, but it needs to be understood that leadership and exciting worship and other marks of vital congregations must be based on commitment to biblical doctrine and biblical moral standards.

People talk about making United Methodism a movement again, instead of a dead institution. This will require new directions.

New life in Methodism will have to come through individuals, small groups, and local churches that will affirm with conviction United Methodist doctrinal standards, traditional Christian views on morality, and John Wesley’s passion of souls.

New life will come when United Methodists talk more about Jesus (this would lower our favorable rating in a hurry) and insist of the new birth as a condition of church membership. New life will come when people witness to miracles, to the presence of the Holy Spirit in their churches, and to changed lives.

Let us pray for the day when The United Methodist Church’s brand isn’t just that we’re nice people, but that “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).

Such a message has always been “a stumbling block” to some “and folly” to others (1 Cor. 1:23), “but to [those] who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

Related posts
Podcast — George Hunter: Can the once-great Methodist movement become a movement again?
‘Assessment’ report: United Methodism faces compound crisis
Riley Case: ‘Operational Assessment’ shows UMC has lost its way
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops

Related articles and information
UMC renewal demands vital local congregations | Andrew C. Thompson, UM Reporter (June 7, 2011)
Call to Action: Reordering the Life of the Church | Website of the UMC’s Call to Action Steering Team
The complete “Operational Assessment” report (PDF) and Appendices (PDF) | Call to Action Steering Team (June 29, 2010)
Tone deafness and the Call to Action | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2010)
United Methodist ‘Call to Action’ finds 15% of UM churches highly ‘vital’ | Mark Tooley, UMAction—IRD (July 17, 2010)
Call to Action offers signs of crisis and hope | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (July 13, 2010)
Momentum builds for major church change | Bishop John L. Hopkins, United Methodist News Service (April 12, 2010)
Call to Action seeks to increase church vitality | J. Richard Peck, United Methodist News Service (April 9, 2010)
Church leaders seek consensus on plans for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 12, 2009)
Connectional Table OKs new plan to study church | J. Richard Peck, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 9, 2009)
Committee assesses life of church | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (July 22, 2009)
Bishop Palmer says church is in ‘sweet spot’ for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (May 14, 2009)
Methodism’s coming death spiral | Donald Sensing, WindsOfChange.net (Nov. 15, 2007)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
‘Open Hearts’ slogan is marketing, not theology | Andrew C. Thompson, UM Reporter (July 12, 2007)
United Methodists poised for ‘open house,’ media campaign | United Methodist News Service (Aug. 30, 2001)

The video below was produced for the UMC’s General Council on Finance and Administration:

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The Mission Society (formerly The Mission Society for United Methodists) is celebrating its 28th birthday today. Society president Dick McClain recounts the founding:

A small gathering of people met together in an airport hotel in St. Louis. Like any other meeting, this one had potential — potential to be hardly remembered just a few months later even by those in attendance, or the potential of birthing something new in the world that would effect lives far beyond imagining.

mission-society-logoThe people in the room that day sensed deeply that they had been called by God. So…this group of United Methodists launched out in faith.

They would establish a missionary-sending agency that would offer Christ to the world’s under-evangelized and unreached people, while also providing increased opportunities for God’s people to respond to His call to cross-cultural missions.

This new organization would not be funded by the United Methodist Church or by any denomination; it would instead be funded by individuals and local churches. In other words, it would rise or fall according to the wishes of the people who partnered with it.

It was a gutsy, sacrificial move. Some of those present pledged thousands of dollars they did not then have.

Six weeks later, on Jan. 6, 1984, The Mission Society was incorporated.

Today, The Mission Society has more than 200 missionaries serving in 37 nations around the world. Most serve outside the U.S., although several are on staff at campus ministries in the U.S.

The Society also has more than 30 volunteer mission representatives available to “introduce” The Mission Society to local churches and to “help pastors, mission committees, and individuals implement the vision the Lord is giving them to reach the world with the gospel.”

You can learn more about The Mission Society here.

The Mission Society also publishes an excellent quarterly magazine, Unfinished.

(The above post is adapted from a post first published in 2009.)

Related posts
The Mission Society celebrates 25 years
Dick McClain named president of The Mission Society
‘Refocused on our divinely appointed mission’: The GBGM and The Mission Society co-sponsor missions conference in Atlanta

Related articles and information
The Mission Society and GBGM build relationship: Leaders help mission groups to make up | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (Nov. 18, 2011)
Dr. Thomas Kemper, chief executive of the UM General Board of Global Ministries, addresses The Mission Society Board of Directors | Audio (Nov. 2, 2011)
Going worldwide: For 25 years the Mission Society has helped the church discover its mission | Dick McClain, Good News (September/October 2009)
Report on The Mission Society’s 25th anniversary celebration | Mission Society News (Sept. 17, 2009)
Video the 25th anniversary celebration | The Mission Society media library
Timeline of The Mission Society
Built to last: A look at The Mission Society after 25 years of building for God’s Kingdom | Interview with Dr. Phil Granger, Unfinished (Winter 2009)
Report on the October 2008 Mission Society ‘visioning’ gathering in Prague, Czech Republic | Jim Ramsay, The Mission Society (Dec. 2, 2008)
There must be more: Mission Society ‘campus missionaries’ are helping feed the spiritually hungry at several U.S. colleges | Anna Egipto, Unfinished (Spring 2009)
The Faith that compels us: The first decade of the Mission Society | An excerpt from The Faith that Compels Us by H.T. Maclin (Bristol House)
The demise of the world’s greatest mission agency | Mark Tooley, Touchstone magazine (November/December 1998)
An open letter to the United Methodist Church from The Mission Society | The Mission Society, via the UM Confessing Movement (May 8, 1998)
Struggling for soul and purse: Disgruntled Methodists challenge their biggest agency | TIME magazine (Jan. 30, 1984)
Methodist critics form own mission agency | David E. Anderson, UPI (Jan. 27, 1984)

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On this edition of the MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, Dr. George Hunter of Asbury Seminary details how Methodism, at least in its institutional United Methodist form, has become what it was once a reaction against.

Dr. George Hunter

In his remarks, recorded earlier this year at United Methodist Congress on Evangelism, Dr. Hunter asks if “a once great movement” — now greatly deficient in New Testament Christianity — “can become a contagious apostolic movement once again?”

To listen to a five-minute excerpt from his January 2011 address, use the audio player below — or download an mp3 file (5MB). (Audio of Dr. Hunter courtesy of GNTV Media Ministry.)

Dr. George G. Hunter III holds the Ralph W. Beeson Chair of Christian Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary, where he serves as Distinguished Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth. He the founding dean of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury.

Dr. Hunter is a graduate of Florida Southern College, the Candler School of Theology (Emory University), Princeton Seminary, and Northwestern University.

He is the author of a dozen books, including The Apostolic Congregation: Church Growth Reconceived for a New Generation (Abingdon, 2009) and The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again (Tenth Anniversary Edition) (Abingdon, 2010).

To subscribe to the biweekly MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.

Related posts
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Podcast — Eddie Fox: ‘That the World May Know Jesus’
Podcast — Sir Alan Walker: ‘Christianity at the Crossroads’
Podcast — Harry Denman: ‘Are We Making Christ Known?’
Podcast — Bishop William R. Cannon: ‘The Whole Gospel for the Whole World’
Randy Maddox: ‘Methodist Doctrine, Spirit, and Discipline’
Billy Graham at the 1980 UM Congress on Evangelism

Related articles and information
The Call to Action: A serious conversation | George G. Hunter III, Good News magazine (March-April 2011)
Barbarians in our midst: How the Irish spread the gospel | A conversation with George G. Hunter III, Good News magazine (March-April 2000 — via Thunderstruck)

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On this edition of the MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, Bishop Lindsey Davis of the Kentucky Annual Conference says the United Methodist Church must repent of its missional lethargy and re-commit itself to the purposes of God in Jesus Christ if it hopes to have renewed life.

Bishop G. Lindsey Davis

In his remarks, recorded last fall at a meeting of the Christian Educators Fellowship, Bishop Davis references Deuteronomy 30:19 (“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life…”) and Zechariah 9:12 (“…you prisoners of hope”).

To listen to a five-minute excerpt from that October 2010 address, use the audio player below — or download an mp3 file (5MB).

Before being assigned to the Louisville Area, Bishop Davis served for 12 years as the episcopal leader of the North Georgia Conference.

To subscribe to the biweekly MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.

Related posts
Bishop Lindsey Davis: The wind-and-flame faith of Pentecost
Conversations with Bishop Lindsey Davis
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘The primary task of the Church’
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘Whatever it takes to reach the lost’
Bishop Lindsey Davis speaks to the Confessing Movement

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Each of the four gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — offers an account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These accounts contain several divergences in detail.

Was there one angel who appeared at the tomb (Matt. 28, Mark 16), or two (Luke 24, John 20)? Did Mary Magdalene go to the tomb alone (John 20), or with others (Mark 16, Luke 24)?

Critics have raised questions about these and other areas of divergence:

  • Was it still dark out? (Yes – John 20); (No – Matt. 28; Mark 16)
  • Did Mary Magdalene tell anyone? (Yes – Matt. 28, Luke 24, John 20); (No – Mark 16)
  • Were the angels (or angel) inside the tomb or outside? (Two angels inside – Mark 16, John 20); (One angel outside – Matt. 28)
  • Was the first appearance to the disciples in Galilee? (Yes – Matt. 28); (No – Luke 24; John 20).

How do we account for these variations? Are they a stumbling block to believing that Jesus rose from the dead?

A logical whole

According to an established rule of investigative practice, if a reasonable explanation fits the available evidence then divergences in detail do not necessarily constitute contradictions.

Click for full Holy Week timeline in PDF

So the real question is not, “Do the gospel accounts diverge at points?” but, rather, “Can those divergences be put together into a logical whole?”

In his book, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (College Press, 1992), retired judge Herbert Casteel, a trial judge for 26 years in Missouri, offers one example of how the various accounts could fit together:

Very early a group of women, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna set out for the tomb.

Meanwhile two angels are sent; there is an earthquake and one angel rolls back the stone and sits upon it. The soldiers faint and then revive and flee into the city.

The women arrive and find the tomb opened; without waiting, Mary Magdalene, assuming someone has taken the Lord’s body, runs back to the city to tell Peter and John. The other women enter the tomb and see the body is gone. The two angels appear to them and tell them of the resurrection. The women then leave to take the news to the disciples.

Peter and John run to the tomb with Mary Magdalene following. Peter and John enter the tomb, see the grave clothes, and then return to the city, but Mary Magdalene remains at the tomb weeping, and Jesus makes His first appearance to her.

Jesus next appears to the other women who are on their way to find the disciples. Jesus appears to Peter; He appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; and then appears to a group of disciples including all of the Eleven except Thomas.

False testimony?

According to Judge Casteel, the minor variations found in the four gospel accounts actually argue for their reliability as containing eyewitness testimony:

People who conspire to testify to a falsehood rehearse carefully to avoid contradictions. [This is why f]alse testimony appears on the surface to be in harmony, but discrepancies appear when you dig deeper. [On the other hand, t]rue accounts may appear on the surface to be contradictory, but are found to be in harmony when you dig deeper….

From ‘Evidence for Faith’
by John Warwick Montgomery

[In addition,] the Gospel accounts of the resurrection…[contain] numerous details of the very type that false accounts would be careful to avoid.

For example, it is related of the Lord’s appearances to His followers, that at first they did not recognize Him.

A false story would never have been made up this way, because it is obvious that this would support an argument that the disciples were mistaken and didn’t see Jesus at all.

Why did the Gospel writers tell it this way? Because their purpose was simply to tell what happened, and that is the way it happened.

Moreover, many witnesses to the resurrected Christ went to their deaths rather than recant their testimony.

Indeed, from the time of the resurrection forward, these witnesses devoted themselves, no matter the cost, to the proclamation that Jesus the Messiah rose from the dead.

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power
and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

— The Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:16

Related post
Podcast: Bill Bouknight on ‘The Resurrection of Jesus Christ’

Related resources
Chapter 12 from Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (PDF) |Herbert C. Casteel, College Press (1992)
The Jury Returns: A Juridical Defense of Christianity | An excerpt from Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question by John Warwick Montgomery, Probe Books (1991)
The testimony of the evangelists | Simon Greenleaf (1846)
The Easter sermon of John Chrysostom (~400 A.D.) [NOTE: This sermon is read aloud in Eastern Orthodox churches on Easter (“Pascha”) morning.]
How Easter killed my faith in atheism | Lee Strobel, Wall Street Journal (April 16, 2011)
Celebrating the Resurrection | Mark Tooley, The American Spectator (April 22, 2011)
Of first importance: The Cross and Resurrection at the center | Albert Mohler (April 22, 2011)

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The following commentary is by Timothy C. Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., one of the top training institutions for United Methodist clergy (Asbury also has a Florida campus).

Dr. Timothy C. Tennent

Below, Dr. Tennent offers a critique of Rob Bell’s controversial book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne). Released last week, the book is already a New York Times bestseller.

Prior to being elected in 2009 to serve as Asbury’s eighth president, Dr. Tennent was a professor of World Missions and Indian Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass.

He holds a B.A. from Oral Roberts University, an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell, a Th.M. from Princeton, and a Ph.D. from at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Ordained in the United Methodist Church, Tim Tennent is served as a pastor in the UMC’s North Georgia Conference from 1982-1990.

This commentary previously appeared in serialized form on Dr. Tennent’s blog. Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com. — Ed.

Rob Bell is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church near Grand Rapids, Mich., a graduate of Wheaton College and Fuller Theological Seminary. His latest book, Love Wins, is an attempt to deconstruct widely held evangelical notions about heaven, hell and the lostness of humanity and replace it with a God whose cosmic love triumphs over human unbelief. It is Bell’s attempt to counter a very poor story with a better story.

The poor story is the story of a God who is an angry tyrant who sends people to hell for an eternity because of “sins committed in a few short years.”

Bell writes, “[T]elling a story about a God who inflicts unrelenting punishment on people because they didn’t do, or say, or believe the correct things in a brief window of time called life isn’t a very good story.”

In contrast, Bell wants to tell a better story which is “bigger and more expansive.” It is the story of the power of God’s love to triumph over a world of unbelief.

Rob Bell is to be commended for exposing the weak theology which apparently is present in many evangelical churches. But he caricatures evangelical beliefs to the limit of one’s imagination, playing on the worst kinds of stereotypes. According to Bell, evangelicals often proclaim a God who “is a slave driver” ready to “inflict pain and agony” on those who don’t pray “the sinner’s prayer in precisely the right way.”

Exclusivists are stereotyped as those who insist that “followers of Jesus confess him in the precise way defined by the group” or you will not be “going to heaven.”

Bell portrays evangelicals as those who are arrogantly cramming the gospel down the throats of an unbelieving world. He suggests that evangelicals care nothing about the environment or poverty or nuclear disarmament, or pollution because all that really matters is “getting people to pray the right prayer,” or believe just the right things so they can die and go to heaven which is “somewhere else” and in a time which is a “different time” than that which we occupy today.

I could spend pages disputing Bell’s caricature of evangelical faith and practice. I have met hundreds of solid evangelical pastors who do not fall into the traps which Rob Bell cites. The historic relationship between evangelical commitments and social action is a powerful and compelling story.

But, for the sake of the argument, let’s accept Bell’s critique as fairly exposing some serious flaws in the theology of contemporary evangelicalism. If it is true, then Bell has definitely revealed that most evangelical pastors need to go back to seminary.

Apparently, today’s pastors have forgotten that the kingdom of God has already broken in to the present age and we are to live out the full realities of the New Creation in the present age.

Apparently, today’s evangelicals have confused the New Creation with 19th century hymns concerning heaven which depict the “other side” as a remote, vague place of passivity with little to do but pluck our harps and walk on streets of gold.

Apparently, quite a few pastors across our nation need to re-learn the basic lesson that God actually loves lost people.

If half of what Rob Bell says about evangelicals is true, then we need to declare a massive recall along the lines of what Toyota did last year when so many cars were discovered to be defective. We need to declare that listening to today’s pastors is no longer safe and reliable until they are sent back for a re-fit and some major theological adjustments. Something deep inside me suspects that Rob Bell may actually be on to something here. Thank you, Rob!

Indeed, it is time for a renewed emphasis on the grand meta-narrative which tells the “big story” and puts all of these doctrines in a larger and more robust theological frame. Perhaps we need a recall and a re-tooling of a largely Christendom-trained clergy to a clergy better prepared for a post-Christendom world which desperately needs a robust gospel, not a domesticated one.

Bell has been listening to the church and to the culture and he has insightfully diagnosed that the church is theologically anemic. He is saying, in effect, “Houston, we have a problem…” — and for that I applaud him.

Right problem, wrong prescription

My problem with Rob Bell is not so much with his diagnostics regarding contemporary popular evangelicalism, as it is with his prescription. The real question is not whether Rob Bell’s description of contemporary evangelical poor theology of “salvation” “New Creation” and “kingdom” is worth the attention the book is receiving. Bell is writing a popular book.

The book has received attention because of its prescription. Rob Bell is not just telling us we are sick, he is providing a remedy, a prescript for the theological malaise we are in. He may not be aware that his “solution” is not new, but dates back to at least 1963 and the writings of Karl Rahner. Nevertheless, for many evangelicals who avoid any books with footnotes, Bell’s “solution” will be received like a fresh new “third way” between a highly caricatured, mean-spirited “exclusivism” and an unbridled, relativistic “pluralism” which levels the playing field between all religions.

The question is this: Is Rob Bell’s prescription worthy of wide dissemination in the church? Should I commend it to our seminary students preparing for ministry today? The answer is a resounding no. Here are four reasons which give me pause.

First, Bell profoundly misunderstands the Biblical notion of God’s “love.” The entire premise of the book is to declare that God’s essence is “love” (which Bell states repeatedly). However, Bell never actually describes the biblical and theological relationship between God’s joyful engagement with the human race and God’s justice upon which the very gospel he celebrates is declared. Bell sentimentalizes God’s love throughout his book, making it almost equivalent to God being nice and reasonable to modern sensibilities.

I suspect that Bell has underestimated how shockingly tepid and sentimental our understanding of biblical love has become. If he had inserted the phrase “God’s holy love” for every place he has used “God’s love” he would have gained more biblical traction, but, in the process, much of his own argumentation would have become unraveled.

Bell’s argument actually requires a logical separation between God’s love and God’s justice which is quite untenable in biblical theology.

Second, Bell has an inadequate understanding of Sin — not the little “s” kind, but the big “S” kind. In other words, Bell understands that we all sin, but he doesn’t seem to comprehend that we, as a race, are part of a vast rebellion against God’s holiness.

Without Christ we, as a race, stand under condemnation and desperately need a divine rescue. Sin doesn’t just impede our progress and slow down our autonomous capacity to receive God’s love. We are spiritually dead apart from God’s prior action. Both Reformed and Arminian Christians affirm the cosmic consequences of the Fall of man. We are not Pelagian.

Bell’s solution takes humanity out of the dock and puts God in the dock. After reading Bell’s book one gets the feeling that Bell has put God on trial. It is God who now has to justify why he would be so cruel as to sentence a sinner to eternal separation from his presence, especially given the “few short years” we have had to commit sins. An eternal punishment for temporal sins is just too much for Bell to bear and so God had better provide an explanation — a good one.

The unfathomable love of the Triune God which resulted in a sending father, a crucified and risen Son and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit who ushers in the glorious realities of the New Creation into the present age is lost in Bell’s description of a “Son” who protects us from an angry “God.”

Third, Bell has an inadequate understanding of the Kingdom of God. He rightly chastises the collapse of salvation into personal justification, though he doesn’t use theological terms to describe this concern. However, in its place Bell fails to see that the kingdom has already been inaugurated, but is not fully consummated.

For Bell to say that heaven and hell are already here now is true in the sense that the kingdom of God is already breaking in (thus, heaven is breaking into the present age) and the absence of God’s rule and reign is hell. Bell correctly points out the relationship between “this age” and “the age to come.” Again, thank you Rob Bell! Bell correctly chastises a church with an under-realized eschatology which puts all redemption off into the “sweet by and by.”

However, Bell’s prescription is an over-realized eschatology which underestimates the massive redemption which still awaits societies, cultures, the kingdoms of this world and, indeed, creation itself. We live in an “already—not yet” tension. The Kingdom of God has already broken into the present evil age. Bell gets that point. However we still await our full redemption and the transformation which is ushered in by the eschaton will be dramatic and cosmic in scale. Bell misses that point.

Fourth, Bell’s solution exalts Christ’s work on the cross, but in the process sacrifices or ignores major themes in Scripture. Bell’s position regarding the state of the lost is known as inclusivism.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Bell is not a universalist, nor is he a full blown pluralist. A pluralist believes that all religions can independently save people and, therefore, there are many different, equally valid paths leading to God. In the pluralist world, Hinduism can save Hindus just as Christianity saves a Baptist. Bell does not take this position.

Bell’s argument is that you may, indeed, belong to a different religion, such as Islam, but it is Christ who saves you. You may be a practicing Buddhist or Hindu, but God is counting your faith as faith in Christ. It is a sort of Christocentric pluralism known as inclusivism and serves as a kind of half-way house between exclusivism and pluralism. It became popular in Roman Catholic circles in the wake of Vatican II and then spread to Protestantism and finally into evangelicalism in recent years.

The idea that a Buddhist could be saved by Christ has been called “Anonymous Christianity.” In other words, people are saved by Christ but do not realize it or know it.

(As an aside, I should note how offended many Buddhists were when they realized that some Christians taught that they were actually anonymous Christians. It is a form of stealth triumphalism which seeks to trump the dignity of unbelief.)

Bell drives a wedge between the ontological necessity of Christ’s work and the epistemological response of explicit repentance and faith. In other words, Christ’s work saves us even if we do not explicitly respond through repentance and faith. The relationship between God’s revelation and our response is severed. For Bell, God’s love saves “Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists as well as Baptists” and does so within their sincere seeking within their own religions.

Bell concedes that John 14:6 does claim that salvation is only in Jesus Christ, but he argues that the text doesn’t go on to say that we need to acknowledge this or know this truth or respond to this, in order to be saved by Christ. In contrast, Paul says, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). The relational link between the Redeemer and the redeemed is quietly dropped in Bell’s wider-hope inclusivism.

Bell makes a point that nowhere in the New Testament does it state that we need a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” However, Bell should remember that sin is not just a forensic, legal breach with God’s justice — it is also a relational breach with God’s person. Bell doesn’t seem to realize the vast implications his position has for the church, the Great Commission and the Biblical call to repentance and faith.

Bell’s ecclesiology has collapsed and we are left with an individual sincere seeker after God. The mission of the church has been, at best, stunted, since the other religions of the world have already brought (implicitly and anonymously) more people to the foot of the cross than has the global proclamation of the gospel.

However, it is only through dramatic theological reductionism that Bell equates biblical salvation in the New Testament to a lone individual seeker after God in a religion like Islam or Buddhism. Bell doesn’t just give us anonymous Christians, he gives us anonymous communities, anonymous Scriptures and anonymous sacraments.

He has effectively disembodied the faith and separated it from ecclesiology despite the fact that it is the church which is the public, redeemed community Jesus Christ declares that he will build to manifest before the world all of the active “heavenly” engagement in this world that Bell longs for.

A domesticated gospel — or a robust, Apostolic one?

Bell is probably right about several things. A lot of pastors out there are teaching stuff which only vaguely reflects the actual teachings of the New Testament. If Bell’s book awakens in the evangelical community a fresh, robust conversation about what we really believe about the kingdom, heaven, hell, the lost and the New Creation, we should all be delighted.

It is important to recognize that Bell’s response reveals that the depth of his own theological reflection is a bit thin, too. He has given us a domesticated gospel which tries to make the gospel relevant to contemporary sensibilities. However, it is not the gospel which needs to be made relevant to us. It is we who need to be made relevant to the gospel. The gospel is always relevant whether it is recognized as such or not.

In my estimation, Rob Bell, and apparently quite a few evangelical pastors, need a thorough re-grounding in the biblical doctrines of God’s love, sin, the kingdom of God, the necessity of human response and ecclesiology.

While I sincerely believe that the spread of wider-hope inclusivism into the evangelical movement represents a serious breach of theological coherence which will undermine the gospel, I am not standing with a stone in my hand. As a seminary president, Bell’s book reminded me anew of the importance of biblical and theological training. He reminded me afresh why I have given my life to theological education.

If there is a “beam” in the eye of the evangelical church it is that we must hear the resounding bell (no pun intended) that a post-Christendom, post-modern generation is not hearing the gospel. However, the answer is not Bell’s further domesticated gospel, but a more robust, Apostolic one.

We can no longer give out gospel fragments which are not clearly tied to re-building the grand meta-narrative which gloriously unfurls from creation to covenant to incarnation to death and resurrection to ascension to Pentecost to the church of Jesus Christ to the Return of Christ and the final ushering in of the New Creation.

A post-modern world which has reduced all Truth to tiny socially constructed personal narratives is in need of a big, glorious grand Story. This is really the deepest cry of Rob Bell. This is the deepest cry of many of us.

Bell has reminded us that our deepest theological and pastoral work cannot be done in isolation from the world, the church and the larger cultural milieu. The world always remains God’s greatest theological workshop. Bell’s book, Love Wins, calls us all back to the workshop in a fresh way. Let’s get to work, shall we?

Related posts
Claremont president: Christians shouldn’t evangelize people of other faiths
Podcast: Billy Abraham on ‘Connecting Doctrine and Evangelism’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The first doctrine’
A word from Mr. Wesley: The way to the kingdom
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The New Birth’
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘The gospel in an age of skepticism’

Related information
Preface from the audio edition of Love Wins | Read by Rob Bell (HarperAudio)
Asbury Seminary elects new president | news release, Asbury Theological Seminary (via Pastors.com) (Feb. 17, 2009)
Asbury Seminary accounts for greatest number of United Methodist elder/deacon graduates (Report on Seminary/Theological School of Ordained Full-Connection Elder or Deacon—2009) (PDF) | Sarah Combs, UM General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (June 1, 2010)

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MethodistThinker.com is on its semi-annual hiatus (observed in February and August). This month, we are showcasing podcasts from the fall of 2010.

The premiere podcast of our fall 2010 season featured Methodist theologian Dr. Billy Abraham, the Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology

Dr. Billy Abraham in 1992

Born in North Ireland in 1947, William J. Abraham was educated at Queen’s University in Belfast, Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, and the University of Oxford in England.

After teaching several years at Seattle Pacific University, Dr. Abraham moved the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. At Perkins, he served as the McCreless Professor of Evangelism and Professor of Philosophy of Religion before becoming the Outler Professor of Wesley Studies in 1995.

Billy Abraham is also an ordained clergy member of the UMC’s Southwest Texas Conference, and he serves on the advisory council of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.

Dr. Abraham’s books include Waking from Doctrinal Amnesia: The Healing of Doctrine in the United Methodist Church (Abingdon, 1995); Wesley For Armchair Theologians (Westminster John Knox Press, 2005 — also available in an audio edition); and Aldersgate and Athens: John Wesley and the Foundations of Christian Belief (Baylor Univ. Press, 2010 — also available in a Kindle edition).

With James E. Kirby, he served as co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies, published in 2009 (a Google Books preview is here).

This podcast features a 1992 lecture, edited for length, on “The Renewal of United Methodist Doctrine and the Revitalization of Evangelism,” recorded at an evangelism symposium held at UM-affiliated Emory University in Atlanta.

Listen using the audio player below (22 min.) — or download an mp3 file (10.2 MB; on a PC, right click and choose “save as”).

Dr. Abraham’s full lecture is available in print in Theology and Evangelism in the Wesleyan Heritage (Kingswood Books, 1994).

For other MethodistThinker Podcasts, click the “podcasts” tab at the top of this page. To subscribe via iTunes or other podcast software, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.

Related posts
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Claremont president: Christians shouldn’t evangelize people of other faiths
Bill Bouknight: What I wish the Council of Bishops would say
Podcast: Bishop William R. Cannon on ‘The Whole Gospel for the Whole World’
Podcast: Sir Alan Walker — ‘Christianity at the Crossroads’
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The New Birth’
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality

Related articles and information
Canonical Theism: Thirty Theses (book excerpt — via Google Books preview) | William J. Abraham — from Canonical Theism: A Proposal for Theology and the Church (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008 )
Wesley for Armchair Theologians (excerpts — via Google Books preview) | William J. Abraham (Westminster John Knox Press, 2005)
Methodist philosopher Billy Abraham examines United Methodism’s decline | Mark Tooley, UMAction (Jan. 8, 2009)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and Ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham — presented at a February 2007 consultation sponsored by the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry re: the implications of UM Judicial Council Decision 1032, issued in October 2005 (text of decision)
The end of Wesleyan theology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, Journal of the Wesleyan Theological Society (Spring 2005)
United Methodists at the end of the mainline | William J. Abraham, First Things (June/July 1998) (via Leadership U)
C. S. Lewis and the conversion of the West | William J. Abraham, Touchstone (March/April 1998)
Healing our doctrinal dyslexia (adapted from an address delivered at a gathering of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church, April 1995) | William J. Abraham, Good News (January/February 1996)

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This is the second installment of a monthly MethodistThinker feature for 2011 that  presents excerpts from the writings of John Wesley, co-founder of the Methodist movement.

Because the use of language changes with the passage of time, the wording in these excerpts has been slightly updated, based on the adaptation found in Renew My Heart (Barbour Books, 2011).

The following is from John Wesley’s sermon, “Salvation by Faith.” A link to the full text of the original sermon is included in the links below.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)

Salvation by faith must be preached as the first doctrine, and it must be preached to all. The Holy Spirit says, through St. Paul, “No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

“Whoever believes on Him shall be saved” is, and must be, the foundation to all else. That is, it must be preached first, and it must be preached to all. We must exclude no one. Not the poor. Not the unlearned. Not the young. For our commission is, “Go and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Never has maintaining the doctrine of salvation by faith been more seasonable that at this day. Nothing but this doctrine can effectually prevent the increase of delusions among us. Attacking one by one all the errors that assail us would be endless. But salvation by faith strikes at the root, and all errors fall at once where this truth is established.

It is this doctrine, justly called the strong rock and foundation of the Christian religion, that first established Christianity on this continent. It is this alone that can save us now.

Wesley statue in Bristol, England
Photo by Chris Bertram (used by permission)

Nothing but this can give a check to the immorality which has overspread the land as a flood.

Can you empty the ocean drop by drop? But let the righteousness which is of God by faith be brought in and the waves shall be stayed.

Nothing but this can stop the mouths of those who “glory in their shame” and openly deny the Lord that bought them.

Bring in the gospel. Begin with the righteousness of faith, with Christ, “the end of the law” to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).

Declaring salvation by faith strikes at the very foundations of hell. For this reason, our adversary stirred up earth and hell to destroy those who first preached it.

[But do not fear.] Even though you are as helpless and weak as a young infant, the strong man, Satan, will not be able to stand before you. You will prevail over him and subdue him, and overthrow him, and trample him under your feet.

March on, under the great captain of your salvation, conquering and to conquer, until all your enemies are destroyed, and “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Adapted in part from Renew My Heart,
published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

Related posts
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The New Birth’
Podcast: Donald English — Aldersgate Day address, 1988
Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’
Podcast: Billy Abraham on ‘Connecting Doctrine and Evangelism’

Related articles and information
Salvation by faith (full text) | The Rev. John Wesley (1738) (from The Sermons of John Wesley, 1872 Edition — Thomas Jackson, editor)
‘By grace are ye saved through faith’ | John Meunier (June 24, 2010)
This still new doctrine of salvation by faith | John Meunier (Sept. 28, 2010)

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