Evangelising and Bringing Revival to a Postmodern World

ANANLYSIS OF: PERIMETERS OF LIGHT

INTRO: TAKING FIRE INTO THE JUNGLE

Analyzing culturally distinctive causes among the varied peculiarities of worldviews, or maze ways in accomplishments, standards and customs of people groups are forced to the surface in the study of cross-cultural interests. As long as these perceptive differences exist, without making adjustments or allowances to compensate for variations in thinking patterns and responsive enablement’s or distinctions of a cultural nature, there will always be cause for havoc to reign when communication is attempted. Cross-cultural communicants appear to need to undergo the process of shifting paradigms, garnishing understanding and insight into the targeted worldview of those to whom communication needs to be enacted with.

It is in the expressive task of building bridges composed of thought and speech where the effective communicator finds the greatest levels of challenge, where the most significant rewards for success in the work of expressing Gospel truth are to be found.  Bridging varied worldviews advances this most noble cause in communicating Christ by establishing commonalities of thought and expression with the intent of sharing ideas in a meaningful fashion by developing an understanding of the differences that exist in world perception.  Shades of grey exist that fluctuate in their intensity, allowing for a transitional expression to exist between cultures, particularly between secularism and Christianity.

Cognition as a procedural understanding is a necessary component in the establishment of communications variables, as they exist in the form of the thought process of the people. By this it is meant that cultural differences, political thought, religious practice and theories of reality: all create intrinsic impressions upon the psyche of persons in intercultural bindings. The act of cognitive evaluation comes into focus in multicultural interaction in no greater way than that which is found in the process of ‘form and meaning’ (ch. 3), as the pertinent focal points of importance are found in culturally relevant actions and practices that are encoded entities in the cultural milieu, although they may not be readily discernable.

Codes of a community variety can be best described as symbols or signs, with each one of these signs carrying specific valuations in the nexus of the conveyance of ideas with cultural attachments and assigned standards being given.  Modern philosophical ruminations consider the power of deconstructing words in order to determine meaning.  This is considered to be the new wave of Postmodernism.  Closer examination of the procedure reveals a rather telling angle of truth that isn’t always readily discernable to the external gaze however.  Deconstructing words and reorienting them with new meaning in order to convey mystery has been the domain of the church for centuries.  It is the express task of the theologically astute churchmen to continue to find ways to extend the boundaries of the perimeter of light that exists in Christ into the cultural darkness that surrounds the church.  Building a fire that shifts the values of comfort is what effective communication is all about.

CHAPTER 1: WHAT MAKES SOMETHING CHRISTIAN?

Taking advantage of communicative tools can allow the missionary/gospel communicator the unique ability to use pagan cultural practices as elevators of conveyance for Christian communication to transpire when appropriate. The authors note this, as they state: “Christianity… does have principles by which a person should keep in relationship with God… Christianity is not a set of rules that you have to keep to become or remain a Christian, though it does have principles by which you live for God (Perimeters, p. 22).”  These peculiarities of uniqueness that are neutral in application, and adaptable to Christian presentations, of salient information, grant an audience in given cultural expressions that allow an ease in communicating truths, utilizing pre-existing platforms for the use of presentation. Naturally, these platforms need to conform to scriptural standards of conduct if they are to make the Gospel understood in all of its glory.

Social structures, as an existent formulator of communities is another focal point of interest to those who desire to express Christian truth cross-culturally. Societies, in general, are simply enlarged, concentric bondings of people units based on commonalities of language and need.  It is important to note that language is the means by which we acquire a worldview and logic.  The thought process, emotive considerations and belief systems make up the distinguishing characteristics of social structures.

In the modern realm, the need to understand the significance of social networks carries a greater sense of importance due to the wide gap that exists between our technological abilities and our communicative aptitude.  This takes added meaning and focus when missionary tasks are conducted in social settings that have been recently impacted by the rapid acceleration of technologies impact upon indigent people groups in rural and primitive surroundings. Christian efforts to advance the message of Jesus Christ, has found a hidden ally in the guise of what may be seen as a societal neurosis that has been caused by the significant changes in the smaller, rural groupings of people outside the boundaries of cities.  The sociological conflict that exists between the rural and the urban environments is still a very intense hotbed of activity.

There are difficulties that can arise in the examination of, and attempts that are made in the field of understanding these social networks, particularly as they exist within the context of the task of communicating to differing and overlapping societies. These are especially enhanced when an awakened realization occurs that identifies the distinctions that exist between sub-cultures in any society. Cities, rural cultures and primitive tribal social networks have distinctions that must be bridged for effective interaction to occur. However, there are unique similarities that do not exist among the three cultural expressions.  Possessing an enlightened understanding to these social digressions can help in the facilitation of sharing Christian values, ideology and concepts, within these unique social structures.

Towns and Stetzer create an astute question concerning relevance and practice as they examine the meaning of syncretism, obscurantism and the impact of cultural relevance (Perimeters, p.34).  An assertion is made that contends for balance and relevance, as they sound a warning against obscurantism, the practice of separating oneself or a subculture from contact with the society that surrounds them as much as possible.  The syncratic approach to ministry makes allowance for an ‘anything goes’ system of blending the presentation of the church with the cultural nuances it is hemmed in by.

An equally dangerous form of exclusion could be seen in the technocratic approach to ministry when it exists in a vacuum in and of itself. As a functional way of doing business, the technocratic system embraces action over spirituality as a primary model of enacting the mandates of Scripture when interaction with society and the various people groups that are composed of the masses that involve the race of humankind. The inevitable result is a church that can easily resemble any corporate business structure over the biblical revelation of what church is meant to be in light of a caring, compassionate community of believers that the Great Commission instructs the church to become Matthew 28:18-20. Or, as Dr. Elmer Towns has stated in 10 of Today’s Most Innovative Churches:[1] “Business is measured by the bottom line profits…when the church is controlled by the methods of business, it is on the dangerous edge…There is a point of balance between the church as ministry and the church as business (pp. 220, 222,223).”

Dogmatism, narrow theological understanding, exclusivist action and eccliasticism, are just any number of problems associated with the technocratic viewpoint. The deficiency of this approach is the formation of institutions that can effortlessly exist outside of the boundaries of faith’s expression, while living the context of Christianity’s net of safety. The tragic consequences of this reassessment of what church is by creating organizations that model efficiency over life expressions such as winning souls, caring for the sick, and other ministry aspects, a structure can be erected that is devoid of eternal purpose.

Another form of Christianity needs to be addressed as well in this discussion: the spiritualistic method of conducting faith.  As a solitary measure, it possesses inherent dangers, as it serves as a form of expression that can devolve into syncretism rather easily if proper constraints of doctrine and conduct are not implemented.

CHAPTER 2: THE DIFFERENCE IN MEANINGS AND FORMS

The admonition toward deference to the message of the Word is a much needed expression of significance for the church today.  In any culture, language is a continuously changing expression of thoughts and customs.  The meaning and form that word(s) take as they morph as to their intrinsic value is critical in the process of effective communication. This is particularly true in a world that increasingly views morality as a subjective entity.  The drift of society toward relative principles further stipulates the need for a walk that exemplifies a strong ethical grounding.  When lifestyles within the church begin to place the highest value on silence, solitude, prayer, simplicity, sacrificial living, meditation on Scripture and The Way, plus a heart of service toward others, the world at large will be capable of seeing Jesus in a much clearer manner.  Transcending a neo-Gnostic theological stance that treats the physical substance of human existence as dwelling below the line of acceptable offering is really the essence of a true form of spirituality.  To enter into a place of spiritual realism is to embrace a holistic approach to becoming human which also places value on those who the believer relates with.  As bearers of the divine image albeit a corrupted one, it is important to realize that the comportment of the church allows or inhibits the fallen world to see Christ as clearly as possible.  Becoming Christ-like carves out adequate room for the neophyte to begin embracing a vision of the original injunction of God’s pronouncement of the goodness of creation.

The Pauline didactic pursuits of Christology also meshes well and can serve as an exemplar for consideration as the Pauline kenosis passage found in Philippians 2:5-11 is examined.  The conceptual ideas of the Kenosis must be seen in context with an expansion of 12th through the 18th verses and the incorporation of the Fear of the Lord concept as meaning and form take on an enhanced meaning.  Wisdom Literature; from a biblical perspective is rooted in the Judaic concept of the Fear of the Lord, which was the ancient equivalent to the salvific experience according to Wayne Sterling, Professor of O.T. Theology, Liberty University[2].  Paul seems to make a significant connection between the incarnational portrayals of the Christ in His humanity in the Philippians passage.  It is Paul’s contention that Christ’s perfect humiliation as a man, operating within the contextual constrains that humanity labors under, qualified Him as the First born Redeemer, leading all who would follow Him into the ways of Wisdom (vv. 12-18).

Through the use of overlay, Paul created a contextual challenge for the believer that issues an expected lifestyle alteration, one which adopts a mindset that embraces the disciplines of prayer, fasting, Bible Study, Witnessing, etc., alongside a visibly demonstrative exhibition of external conformity to Wisdom’s tutelage as form and meaning take on eternal portions.  The inevitable result of the incorporation of faith into any life means a change in habits and motivational forces must follow for the faith to be truly put into play.  It is ‘God working in you’ that produces the unique state of being of oneness of mind, sympathy for those in need, inundated in love, and capable of operating in a spirit of humility (Philippians 2:1-3).  Segueing into these internal attitudes that express themselves incarnationally is the edict to views others above ones own self (v.4), which allows for the adoptive mindset shift.

Verses 14-18 of this passage comport themselves within the theological structure of Wisdom Literatures enactment, which in turn fits into Stetzer’s model of Christian choice regarding cultural adaptations that serve as vehicles for the presentation of the greatest story ever told (p.43).  It seems that the missing piece of the Disciples puzzle is the incorporation of a practical and relevant expression of Christianity that showcases faith’s fullness through human vessels.  James exhortation in the second chapter of his letter fits into this framework, as James asserts: “What good is it… if someone says he has faith but does not have works? …Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (vv.14, 18).”  It should be advanced that as a functional expression of the Body of Christ the church is to exhibit and practice a realistic appraisal of its innate ability to accept and relate to a fallen world, leading them into the portals of salvations power.  This can be accomplished by aggressively demonstrating that Jesus is the only vehicle of hope worth pursuing.  Making the expressed mandate of the Great Commission and Commandment known is the key to accomplishing this task here on earth.  The clear articulation of Jesus heart helps us to balance a desire to transform internally with the responsibility of changing the culture and peoples who surround us on a daily basis.

As such, we have been empowered to do more than simply edify ourselves with the various gifts and callings that God imparts to us both individually and corporately.  Understanding this helps us to bring redemption to areas of weakness, releasing the power of sins being forgiven, expressing healing grace in the various arenas where it is best served in the context of need, helping people find grace, forgiveness and comfort among the strenuous hurts that we carry as baggage, and restoring people back into the image of God from which we have fallen so far from.  This perspective doesn’t remove the dynamics of supernaturalism from the Churches conversation.  Rather, it brings these factors into a place of sharper focus, lending guidance and definition as to the discipline of implementation and practice on a functional basis, which is something that I believe comports itself well to the revelation of Scripture.  The over arching understanding of this philosophy of purpose and growth embraces God in a deeper way, acknowledging Him as the source of our giftedness and the guide for the gifts expression in a judicious and proper fashion.  In this paradigm, we are empowered to reach out to a hurt and fallen world that has been disenfranchised from the normative religious expressions, granting them a vision of hope as they see Jesus through us.

Adherence to this approach to the life of faith allows us to develop as praying people who welcome the Lord into the midst of the church passionately without sacrificing the need to instill purpose and hope into the individual life of the believer.  As such, there is an empowerment to love God and man with abandon, as the church evangelizes, disciples and worships in the corporate and in the individual sense.  This is done through the larger gatherings as a body, through smaller intimate groups or clusters, and in the context of one on one encounters.  In following this model of ministry, there can be a measure of excellence found in example as we promote the Lord’s agenda without adhering to cold traditionalism as we cultivate His glorious manifest presence in the midst of the Corpus Christi.

CHAPTER 3: BOUNDARIES OF PRACTICE

Codifications or expressions of thought that have been encoded, or empowered with meaning, are essential and must exist to the respondent if meaningful communication is to occur. By virtue of the essential force of value, words and actions are necessary components that must be formed and projected for evocative interaction to occur in the normative sense. This level of communication exists in both verbal and nonverbal expressions with the verbal format manifesting in the spoken and the written varieties.  Nonverbal communication carries within its perimeters a less distinct identification.  Intonation, stressors, pitch, rate, rhythm, pacing, voice tension, volume and inflection: all fit within the boundaries of the nonverbal sort. Couple these primary nonverbal considerations with the importance of the non-verbal language which includes gestures, behavioral distinctions, the use of space, time, among others, and the broad range of communications boundaries are readily seen. These nonverbal codes may even be of greater need in the understanding and study as to how to express thought and intent among differing cultures than the spoken and written forms. Each of these points referring to cognition is essential components that can be utilized in the creation of a field of thought that enhance the communication process to happen.

Linguistic achievement is found in the ability to form guttural sounds into recognizable, sequential and repetitive intonations. The genius of civilization is the unique ability of humanity to express thoughts, ideas and needs in a cohesive manner that conveys conceptual understanding.  Communicative theories encompass the model that examines the point of origin of communication the communicant and the referral information as the primary participants in the encoding and decoding procedure of thought conveyance.

Cultures and civilization are based on the need to communicate. This process takes place through the simple procedure of example, modeling and imitation, as they place the importance of languages ability to influence cultural assumptions and inter-connective relationships that develop networks of feasible interdependent lifestyles.

Linguistic forms are foundational to another field of reference for understanding communications intricacies as well.  This can be equated to the practices of any given culture that affects behavioral patterns that influence the external actions of cultural practices.  Missional workers need to comprehend the relevant power of behavior if the fine art of communication is to occur effectively. This force can be seen in the positive and negative in the study of cultural relativism.  Creating distance between these significant segments, ethics and culture is an invaluable assistor in the task of communication.  Determining the root causal influences of practice allows the person attempting cross-cultural dialogue the unique insight and forethought to by-pass preconceived judgments based on the communicator’s culture as opposed to the desired respondents cultural assumptions and actions.

Following Christ is a radical proposition that is intended to utterly ruin those who begin the diligent pursuit of the Christ of glory.  Disciplined transformation was the purpose of Christ as humanities example, as Jesus had to: “learn obedience by the things He suffered, even though He was a (the) Son (Hebrews 5:8).”  If it was required of the Lord, how could be any less intense or any less obligatory for His disciples?  Although the disciplines can never enhance or increase salvations power, fasting, prayer, solitude and the host of other disciplines are critical for the mastery of the human body.  It is highly unlikely that an overall change in perception will occur within the church universal, but if just a handful of believers begin to take the message of the disciplined life seriously, things will change.  Taking a holistic view of spirituality and essential physicality seems to be the proper approach to real faith.  Humans are a composite form of life that effectively blends material substance and spirit/soul essence.  It is in the picture of a blended being that the phrase “a little lower than God” becomes relevant in the creative order of mankind.  To over emphasize one over the other, or to denigrate one for the other are equally grave mistakes.

         The proffering of spiritual direction readily lends itself to an acknowledgment that there is more to spirituality than mastery of examinations, attendance of seminars, delving into a list of required readings and regurgitating the latest and greatest digressions of the current lectionaries circuit riders.  Spiritual direction in its pristine form embraces a dependence that professes there is much that remains to be known and experienced.  This emphasis on directional acumen does not discard the necessary accompaniments of study and interaction with scholastic thought.  There should never be an argument proffered for the abandonment of enlightenment principles.  What is advanced is the proper placement of these values within the life of the churchmen he addresses.  When a proper assessment of servile attitudes is allowed to develop, a significant amount of work can be accomplished for the Lord.

CHAPTER 4: CHURCH

The church, which is the body of Christ escorts those who follow Christ by virtue of the role that is fulfilled as the living embodiment of the Lord on earth, not as a behind the scene programmer or institution.  The body of Christ is to be a community that is decisive and in the forefront as opposed to being an organization that functions from an unseen posture, directing lives or ministries without being recognized. It is important for the church to be visible, serving in a way that is capable of being reproduced through evident demonstrations that expands the churches ability to lead by example.

The principle of visibility is then tempered by the discipline of Servanthood.  This distinction is an important one as it exposes the essential core of church life: those who lead are called to serve in a way that is capable of being reproduced through viable demonstrations.  Servanthood automatically implies caring devotion to God’s people, but there is a more profound aspect to this truth that resides below the surface and is discoverable with a minimum of effort.  Spiritual communities have a first priority that supercedes all other responsibilities.  They are to be committed to ministering to the Lord above all else and as an example of redemption to the unredeemed.  This is the hinge upon which every other aspect of servant leadership swings.  Relationship with God and others must take precedence above all else, or else all else is performed in a meaningless vacuum.

But when churches operate within a dynamic of submission to the Lord, acquiescing to His heart for the lost, a vesting takes place that transforms the functional qualities of fellowship’s necessary constraints.  To be filled with the Spirit’s presence saturates the church with power, enabling those who are church to function responsibly in a fallen world, acting intelligently. Is there any better way to state the obvious dependent nature of knowledge, intelligence and wisdom?  The three forms of a symbiotic relationship that is at the center of sound judgment and keen insight in so far as church is concerned.  This triad forms an alliance that can advance the kingdom of God far into the portals of Hell, as they present a reasonable defense for the faith that is found in God’s great love expression: Jesus Christ.

Perimeters of Light  takes a position that ensconces the value of both character development and proper study as a means of improving the intricate demands that are placed upon the leader as Postmodernity’s fruit is assayed.  This dual pronged challenge of character development through the exercise of habitual study is one that needs to be heeded in today’s haphazard approach to knowledge and comprehension.  It is in the dark recesses of the written tomes that the mind is challenged with new thoughts and ideas, helping the minister to overcome the difficulties and trials that leadership brings into its often cold and lonely embrace.  The minister can hardly afford to neglect the fine art of studious practice, as books are gateways into time, allowing the servant of God to commune with the great thinkers and contributors of the past who have traveled down the road of humanity already, contributing to the cycle of thought in both the secular arena and in the field of religious ruminations, regardless of the era to which they may have belonged.

The transcendent qualities of study are further ensconced by Sanders as he points out the ability of great written works to benefit the reader spiritually, intellectually and morally as the benefactors of reading accept the counsel of the items they are analyzing.  This is particularly true of books and study material that enhances the spiritual nature of the student, drawing them into an improved relationship with God as they ponder new truths about Him.  Hopefully, this exercise will broaden the neophytes’ intellectual acumen, as it equally augments the ability of the learner to articulate the new found ideas in a congruent manner.  By all means, this is a path worthy of following in a society that is rapidly jettisoning its valves of consistent thought and morality for a philosophy founded in moral relativism as expressed in the burgeoning field of Humanisms twin: Postmodernism.  Godly wisdom, gained through masterful study, is truly a viable means of advancing the Christian faith; pulling the church out of a direction that is heading toward mediocrity and stagnation.

By placing a premium on communal connectivity and proper conduct on the part of the believer, Stetzer and Towns have tapped into the third wing of biblical revelation, a segment that has fallen into disrepute due to the Western Churches preoccupation with Enlightenment principles.  The elevation of the Prophetic through sound exposition needed to be asserted through the Reformation.  Quality sermons that emphasized proper reasoning and techniques that were hermeneutically sound augmented the fervor of the age, serving as a handmaiden to the burgeoning data that was spreading through scientific investigations, literary challenges, and philosophical savvy. This societal revolution set the stage for the Evangelical focus upon The Law and the Prophetic segments of Holy Writ, but a large segment of biblical revelation was by-passed or de-emphasized. This neglected area, the area of the Wisdom Writings has needed to re-emerge within the collective psyche of the Christian realm.  Found within the sagely tomes are excellent diatribes that help the follower of YHWH to be conformed into the imagio deo in very practical ways.  Direction is given in matters of finance, romance, and most importantly: emotional balance.

The overemphasis on factual information within the church has led some to approach cultural adaptations with great suspicion.  Stetzer points this sad fact out as he asserts: “Christians have struggled with boundaries for twenty centuries” This is the general listing of importance among many expositors today. This lack of substantive teaching on cultural adaptation and comportment as a projection of the divine image has led to the dearth of understanding in a very important part of human identity: the emotive nature of man.  Scientific analysis approached emotional fervency as an aberration that was reflective of humanities primal beginnings.  The churches embracing of this philosophy has provided very fertile soil for a schizophrenic slant to the human animal’s nature, lending itself to a modern semi-Gnostic/Manicheanistic view[3] that has relegated the emotional aspects of humanity into a place of debasement that is a far cry away from what has been openly displayed through the God-Man Jesus.

CHAPTER 5: WORSHIP

Having an ordered garden of the heart has a proven result: a spiritual quality of life that knows no bounds.  The garden is developed through the cultivation of worship and the practice of the disciplines.  Disarray will lead to a restriction of the gardens yield, however.  When the garden is neglected, an inevitable discrepancy surfaces that chronicles the resultant problems of an undisciplined life.  The following assertions point out that if there is an unwillingness to yield to the tutelage of the disciplines:

  • Believers will never learn to enjoy the eternal and infinite perspective that the Spirit gives birth to
  • There will always be a lack of a vital, life giving friendship with Christ
  • A lack of accountability to God will constantly exist
  • A lack of being special and value as sons and daughters of God will be propagated
  • A lack of reserves for crisis will subsist

In order to maintain a balanced approach to our spirituality, and to truly reap the maximum benefits of the relational qualities that can exist with right relationship with God, the disciplines must be appropriated and implemented.  Discipline is the pathway to Spiritual strengthening. The establishment of a philosophy of worship is the proper key to engaging the presence of the Lord.  Worship is the primary vehicle that helps believers to grow in the experiential aspect of our faith.  It is the act of opening our hearts and minds to His supreme worthiness and then expressing our gratitude as we minister to the Lord.  An appropriate worship experience embraces singing, devotion, silence, study and a number of other pensive modes that help us in communing with our God.  A further consideration that is critical is the need to tailor services around the experience and needs of the congregation in order to best facilitate an intimate worship experience.

Many Postmoderns’ seem to favor the contemporary form of services that offer a more Rock and Roll style of music as the worship accompaniment.  A quality music program is critical in the engagement phase of service as well as supportive expressions such as specials, drama, etc. depending on the talent levels and the openness of the church.  The conveyance of vibrant activities is a strong component of the service time coupled with the receiving of the tithes and offerings.  This can be done traditionally or utilizing multimedia productions, again contingent upon talent and resources.  The major focal point of the service should always center on the communication of the Scriptures.  The message should be informative and practical, containing both elements concerning topical considerations and exposition in order to challenge and minister to all in the congregation, despite length of time as believers or theological background in the faith.  When necessary, an altar call can be an effective means to further cement the necessary truths being espoused, helping the recipients to integrate the concepts deep in their lives as they practically commit themselves to their implementation.

A philosophy concerning worship should be simple: when music is the medium, employ the style that moves the community of believers into the divine presence. Worship is designed to bring us into the fellowship of the Spirit, encountering God in the place He resides. This is accomplished through our devotion to the Word, through our fidelity to the disciplines, through our exaltation of the King eternal, and by facilitating an atmosphere of communal unity. When the church enters into God’s love, a joy is released that is infectious, showing the world why it is good to taste of the Lord’s Table. Anointing and blessing are found under the auspice of a dynamic life experience fostered through the manifested presence that is released as we embrace and facilitate an atmosphere for God to come and rule, making it “on earth as it is in heaven.” A good, practical approach to worship as a practice and model has been molded upon the modern church through the ministries of John Wimber and Jack Hayford’s perspectives, as their views seriously impacted the ‘Jesus Generation.’

A solid approach to worship could be seen as:

  • Emphasizing the importance of worship
  • Lead people into heart felt worship
  • Magnify God and exalt Him through the vehicle of worship
  • Develop strong corporate and individual worship practices
  • Create an understanding of the importance to worship God through:
  1. a) A regenerated spirit
  2. b) A renewed mind
  3. c) Revived emotional centers
  4. d) With a willing and ready will
  5. f) With a rededicated life
  • Cultivate an attitude of expectancy in the worship service
  • Develop an attitude of preparation as the Lord is welcomed into our lives
  • Use worship as a means of effecting deep transformation of the soul

CHAPTER 7: PREACHING

Preaching the Word of God can be a daunting task, the work of the minister revolves around the function of transformation as it applies to the disciple’s of Christ in the modern context of life.  This involves both the initiates who are in pursuit of the conversion experience and those who have followed Christ for any number of years.  The work area isn’t simply a desk.  Nor is it confined to a computer screen, as it extends deep into the soul.  The laborer within the Lord’s kingdom who serves in a pastoral capacity may be called upon at times to oversee the construction of buildings, maintaining edifices in a proper manner and making sure that the properties which have been dedicated to eternal service are comfortable for churches congregants. But, at the heart of the work of the reverend, the minister isn’t a construction labor of janitor.  All of these functions may serve within the task of ministry, but none of them define the sacred task as specifically as the presentation of the Word of God.  Study, personal interaction and experience should collide in the life of the exegete in order to produce exposition that addresses the felt needs of the congregants at all levels of life.

Becoming competent in both preaching and people skills requires the ability to step outside of the pristine walls of self importance through the process of living in the realm of the other.  The experiences that are catalogued in the annals of good books found outside the confines of traditional Christianity can help the believer in Christ to become an interactive listener, relating to people in various strata of life, without necessarily sharing common experiences. It is in this field of expansion that the individual who grew up in the pews of suburbia can relate to the person whose life experiences consists of Inner City turmoil, drugs, gangs and prison life, particularly when one of the individuals lived a rather harrowing existence prior to a life changing cathartic experience.

Understanding the dynamic of incorporated life experiences can catapult a leader’s propensity to have key insight into individual personalities and why they act the way they do when confronted with varying opportunities or difficulties confronted throughout the cycles of leaderships challenges. It is true that the summation of a person goes beyond the simple acquisition of information and data.  People are molded and shaped through the emotional effect that others impress upon them through experiential contact, both in a positive, negative or indifferent format.  Standing at the front of this line of influence is the individual’s immediate family; this is particularly true in the Postmoderns’ world, thus: creating a sense of belonging and community needs to emerge through the exposition of Scripture as the people are drawn into a new social network. Knowing the power of these influential voices from the past can help others to make sense out of confusing actions or activities, based on familial tendencies and habits.

As believers, it is important to take a posture that:

  • Re-commit to the memorization of the Word
  • Re-commit to a philosophy of the Word as a personal source of strength and not simply a textbook
  • Apply the Word’s principles and truths daily
  • Teach the Word’s principles and truths
  • Help people understand good hermeneutical principles
  • Teach the practical use of effective study tools
  • Teach biblical biographies in order to enhance personal faith
  • Teach sound, practical doctrine
  • Emphasize the importance of the Bible as a devotional source

CHAPTER 8: EVANGELISM

Attaining balance between emotional health and proper expressions of conduct makes allowances for the believer to enact meaningful openness to one another and to God as they express Christ on earth.  This paradigm works well within the contextual implementation of personal discipline and spiritual motivation.  It is appropriate to examine the inner structure of the human psyche and to observe and correct inner-personal deficiencies created throughout our composite life experiences’, allowing the past hurts to become healed.  Entering into a state of emotional health truly paves the way for brokenness and vulnerability, carving new pathways for inter-personal exchanges that are true and authentic in their nature, even extending themselves into the fixtures of personal pleasure and pain.  Accepting new duties and denying requests of time and energy without grumbling or other inappropriate emotional responses falls easily into the incarnational exposition of Philippians 2 embracing of Wisdom’s Personification, both in the modeled life of Christ, and in the subsequent lives of His followers.

Acceptance of the pain and confusion normative living brings, helps the followers of Christ to empathize with the sufferings of the Gethsemane experience.  Crosses are taken up as a lifestyle where proper discipleship is truly embraced.  All of these factors of a life submitted to Christ point the neophyte toward the sacred pathway of incarnational servant hood.

Effective presentation of any message, including the Gospel, can be enhanced significantly by proper use of media. Proper use of media formats, both simple and syndetic, are key in the communicative process. As a tool, simple media is a tremendous asset in bridging the gulf of encoding the transmission of thought between spoken or recorded words into the nonlinguistic strata of any society, thus enabling communications potential between complex and simple societies.  This aspect of dialogue, media presentation, constitutes an extremely potent form of communicating as it covers the gamut of available models, ranging from computers to television and the Internet, into the more traditional means such as print.  Proper analysis of the target group’s limitations in comprehension, language barriers, and political dissimilarities forces analysis:  all become surmountable obstacles that can be conquered with proper application of correct media tools for use in the respondent culture.

Following Christ is a radical proposition that is intended to utterly ruin those who begin the diligent pursuit of the Christ of glory.  Disciplined transformation was the purpose of Christ as humanities example, as Jesus had to: “learn obedience by the things He suffered, even though He was a (the) Son (Hebrews 5:8).”  If it was required of the Lord, how could be any less intense or any less obligatory for His disciples?  Although the disciplines can never enhance or increase salvations power, fasting, prayer, solitude and the host of other disciplines are critical for the mastery of the human body.  It is highly unlikely that an overall change in perception will occur within the church universal, but if just a handful of believers begin to take the message of the disciplined life seriously, things will change.  Taking a holistic view of spirituality and essential physicality seems to be the proper approach to real faith.  Humans are a composite form of life that effectively blends material substance and spirit/soul essence.  It is in the picture of a blended being that the phrase “a little lower than God” becomes relevant in the creative order of mankind.  To over emphasize one over the other, or to denigrate one for the other are equally grave mistakes.

When salvation is enjoyed by those who are disciplined, change occurs.  The nature of humanity undergoes a metamorphosis that enhances the Christ life to bleed through the human visage.  As true discipleship is undertaken, the essential qualities that marks humans as unique entities to come forth in full bloom, allowing Christ to be most fully expressed within the world at large.

As Christians, there should be efforts toward:

  • Revival that attempts to express the heart of New Testament Christianity
  • Spiritual Growth as they become strong disciples
  • Strategies that lead to them becoming change agents in their community
  • Expressing the gift of faith in evangelism
  • The preaching of revival principles and the importance of soul winning
  • An attitude of becoming carriers of revival
  • Learning how to witness effectively through the 4 Spiritual Laws & the power of their personal testimony

CHAPTER 9: CHRISTIANITY IN A POSTMODERN WORLD

Although it is important that all believers carve out a section of all of life’s’ ruminations with the specific intent of addressing the private disciplines of the spiritual person, it could be argued that in order to be effective in evangelizing a postmodern society, there is a mandate toward the spiritual disciplines.  It is indeed ironic, that those who dwell in the age of the Electronic Super Highway, have need of a SPD (Soul Positioning Device), based on the ancient pathway of becoming spiritually adroit through spiritual disciplines that call for a slowed down pace, if true direction is to be received, isn’t it?  And what better navigational system is there, than the literary writings that have been dubbed the Works of Wisdom and found within the biblical text?  James, Solomon, Paul, and David: all share commonalities and traits along with other notable biblical recorders like Daniel and Jesus, who utilized the noble traditions of faith enacted through practical application.  Effective evangelization needs to incorporate a reincarnation of the living nature of the Word which was incarnated in Christ.

This reassessment of the value of a disciplined life is invaluable.  Disciplined behavior of a religious nature stands out to the postmodern individual, as will authentic relationship.  Towns and Stetzer would seem to be in agreement with J. Vernon Jacobs in 10 Steps to Leadership,[4] as Smith posses an assertion that: “too many (leaders) have a ‘form of godliness’, but their lives are utterly lacking in power” as “the degree to which the Holy Spirit comes into your life depends upon the individual (p. 87, 10 Steps).  If those who walk in front of the church’s ranks desire to be effective and produce results that are eternal, they must walk in tandem with the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to equip, empower and direct the structure of the church, or as Sanders puts it: “spiritual goals can be achieved only by spiritual people who use spiritual methods” (10 Steps, p. 32). The base of spirituality is discipline.

“Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self” (p. 52, 10 Steps) is another axiom, that is an under girding principle Fred Smith advances in Learning to Lead, also a part of The Leadership Library, as he postulates that: “Leaders need to submit themselves to a stricter discipline than is expected of others.  Those who are first in place must be first in merit,[5]” (Learning to Lead, p.44).  Spiritual leadership must be made up of those who understand that leadership is both what a leader is and what a leader enacts.

Whether it is in the act of effective management of time, or in the practice of becoming small through silence and solitude, modern neophytes need to submit to the tutelage of sound, practical advice that makes faith meaningful through its existential implementation.  Disciplines are more than great ideas, and real disciples simply cannot be composed of thinking entities as an end to itself.  Good thought patterns must yield themselves to the fertile soil of action, if the internal garden is to ever produce a crop of fruit of spiritual sorts. Paul’s admonition to the Church at Galatia to understand that: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5: 22, 23),” can truly only be born in heart soil that has been sprinkled with the discipline’s life producing spiritual moisture.

When external appearance replaces internal discipline, the church and its various components morph into something they were never meant to become: a heartless reflection of a materialistic society that it exists within in the west.  This is not to be as a solution of the turning of the tables is adapted as a position that is willing to embrace change and confrontation, as the means for correction. A powerful and resonant cry has come forth from heart felt ruminations concerning evangelizing a fallen society that are reminiscent of the prophetic utterances of years gone by. The pointing out of the newfound weaknesses in a church system that is bent on impersonal connections over profound relationships that are made up of vulnerability and compassionate care is evocative.

Identifying a problem of this magnitude does present a telling need for adjustment.  An attempt to rectify this problem could be achieved by combining insights into the churches originally intended place of intimacy with an awakened passion that is being expressed as many church groups across the expansive galaxy of Christianity cry for spiritual formation and discipleship.  The net result is a three pronged attack that concentrates on a reevaluation of what it means to be a spiritual community, as a new and reconfigured church offers a recalibrated view of the endemic problems of humanity and faith. Coupled to this is a reconsideration of how the believer relates to those who exist outside of themselves.  This trinity of activity is an appropriate, measured response to the modern world’s preoccupation and emphasis on the varying aspects of church difficulties.

Along these lines, it is also important to include a directional system into life.  Although there are many good guidance systems or models that a church or pastor can adopt as a guide into the portals of successful ministry, without prayer, Bible reading and direction of a spiritual nature, ministry can become a hollowed out tree.  Although things may appear to be in proper order on the outside, a closer examination will reveal a lack of substance and strength internally.

It is the adherence to the internal forces that comprise personal character that should be of critical importance to the modern expositor of Holy Writ.  Scripture makes our character out to be an issue of extreme importance.  This approach to principles operates on a high plane when the aspect of pastoral integrity is broached.  In the act of emphasizing prayer, Scriptural adherence and spiritual direction, Peterson places a value on matters that are less than glamorous to many pastors.  Often, churches emphasize the need to act competitively, advancing external aspects of ministry as holding the highest places of honor within the boundaries of church life, due to insecurities and an over exaggerated sense of self importance.

The emphasis is often placed upon degrees earned, abilities to manage finances in ways that are similar to the CFO in the corporate world, and communicative mastery that is synonymous to the best of the best infomercial salesmen who can be found hawking their wares in the nebulous hours of televisions twilight time slots.  Added to this mix is a dab of Dr. Phil’s loveseat advice, the wisdom and shrewdness of the high profile ambulance chasing attorney, coupled with a healthy dose of personal attractiveness and charismatic appeal.  Throw in a good speaking voice that is calm yet authoritative, soothing yet directive, placating yet convincing, and the net result is the perfect example of the modern prototypical pastor. Perimeters of Light attempts to dispel the notion that the above mentioned points of value are really all that important.

CHAPTER 10: THE PERIMETER OF TRUTH

Apostolic success followed men who were trained in disciplines perimeters, as they successfully navigated the treacherous boundary between light and darkness.  Those who asked, Lord, teach us how to pray, eventually become empowered to transform a world as an outward reflection of their inward change.  This transformational structure is still applicable today, just as it was with the earliest members of the church.  The influence of the disciplines is truly a powerful personal bowing to the cry to come and follow, for the disciplines were regularly practiced by Jesus, as the Gospels clearly illustrate.  Perhaps the Postmodern flirtation with spirituality may not be all bad.  A reassessment of the churches virtual rejection of the super natural’s inclusive place within her portals may be the ultimate result.

The missing element of effective Christianity is clearly seen in a lack of the willing embrace of the message of Biblical Wisdom, which advocates reflective lifestyles.  This is the basis of the Christian message, which finds its roots sunk deeply into the pools of Wisdom’s exposition.  The fear of the Lord serves as the basic, primary steps toward a life which glorifies God.  These human motivators move the disciple toward a godly life that resembles the life Christ led while confined to the substance that is common to human existence.  Practicing the disciplines enhances the disciple of Christ to move toward authenticity of faith through the practice of viable expressions that lead to enactments of kingdom living.  Existing as Jesus lived should be goal of every believer.  Incarnational lifestyles help the spiritually dead to become aware of the living reality of faith’s qualities that are capable of being implemented that in turn lead to enriched life that closely emulates Jesus.

Following the active presence of the Lord in the life of the disciple should be the end goal for all believers while still confined to the corruptible fashions of an earthbound existence.  Overcoming sins influential power is really at the heart of the Gospel, helping people overcome the schizophrenic state of living as a battlefield, torn between the reality of what we should be and the reality of what we are confined to in this fallen realm.  Finding freedom from the baser expressions of a life that has proved to be “profoundly fallen”[6] is the aim of the disciplines fruit.  When the disciplines are undertaken, new activities that form a nucleus of behavior that subjugate the fallen nature to the new creature reality are entertained.  As the combination of mind and body meld into a trained unit that creatively attempts to exemplify the biblically modeled spirituality of a submitted life, a new power that can be directed by God is then allowed to surface.  This was the focal point of the baptismal experience of the Christ at the hand of John the Baptist in the river Jordan.  This can be the experience of the disciple today in a somewhat lessened way.

EPILOGUE: THE MOVING LIGHT

The postmodern world’s intrusive trappings have given rise to a culture that seeks fulfillment in a multitude of diversionary avenues that lead away from the one true source of help: Jesus the Christ.  A strange substitution has transpired in modernity’s quest for truth, as philosophy has become the handmaiden of psychology, in effect divorcing theology as the mainstay of humanities helpmate.  Self-aggrandizing programs now abound, manifesting themselves across the strata of secularized society, touching all forms of the humanities as a discipline. The exaltation of a humanistic philosophy devoid of Jesus as the epitome of what it means to be human leaves little more than a skeleton-like visage, although a plethora of promises are the normative form of argument that the human centered philosophy advocates.  Peace, prosperity and wealth are the promised results, yet reality shows that humanity is plagued with depression, suicidal tendencies, loneliness, an aversion spirit based on escapist tendencies. Through a multiplied expression of carnality that embraces excessive behaviorisms that are destructive.  These aberrations encompass drugs, violence, material excess, sexual extravagance, compulsive idiosyncrasies, among other addictive patterns, which may lead the user into a sense of escape, but the escape is only an illusion.

By couching the disciplines as an alternative to self-help programs, or as a means for the subversion of self to self destructive forces, Willard offers a road of hope for the church to march down, as it tries to re-attain a place of importance in the cultural milieu of the day.  Rather than retreating from the formidable battles of the era, the disciplines offer a viable means that provide a way to combat the world’s intrusiveness into the churches perimeters.  The church is at its best when it doesn’t seek to copy the world’s methodologies of programs and business practices as a base of operation.  Nor is a false or pretentious form of spirituality to be embraced that advocates a form of Gnostic mystery over sound exegesis, emulating Eastern cultic practices as a means of spiritual liberation.

When the disciplines of a spiritually tuned disciple are properly initiated, the internal enemies of godly expressions are dealt a lethal blow.  Every follower of Christ lives within the confines of the struggle against sin.  The disciplines help the disciple to gain mastery over sins’ pervasiveness.  Pride easily succumbs as a victim to secrecies intransigent qualities, as the humble acts of sacrifice are performed far away from the glaring gaze of those who desire an open display of deeds for corroboration and a self-induced coronation of importance.  In an equal manner, gluttony falls to the power of fasting, one of the most self-debasing manifestations of a disciplined life.  When a lifestyle is developed that heartily embraces fasting as a lynchpin, an attitude of dependence is allowed to be fostered, as the spiritual dimension of life is shown to be of such value, that at a minimum, it stands on the same level of a normative expression of life that continually satiates the need for food and drink.  It is a common experience of those who fast as a normal life expression to begin seeing the value of that which has yet to be seen, as fasting is certainly one of the key practices of self-denial extolled by Jesus for all who would heed his call to ‘come and follow’ (Matt 16:24).

The sin of envy fails in comparison when held up against the potent power of fellowship.  Following Christ means the lesson of mutually derived joy from shared experience creates a platform for true and deep intimacy to occur, as believers learn how to bless one another instead of cursing each other.  Other means of external engagement that can enhance the benefit of being found in a community include studying together for mutual benefit and advancement, and placing the towel of service around the waist in order to meet the deep felt needs of those who are expressing cooperation through the Christ connection.  Prayer is another viable weapon that can be wielded individually or in a corporate setting that facilitates engagement.  As heart’s join together in verbal expressions of need and praise, the Christian population receives a fresh infusion of the divine.  Accountability is fostered through confession, as humility is allowed to be a witnessed commodity as members who are joined together through a common faith founded on Jesus and His interaction with His disciples forces its way to the frontal position of the line.

The sin of greed heeds to the oncoming intrusiveness of the practice of frugality which shares a common aim of transformative expressiveness through sacrifice.  The means of fulfilling the Great Commissions mandate hinges upon obedience in resources use, as the advancement of the kingdom needs material capital to be released for the propagation of the Gospel to be effectively advanced.  Anger is subdued by silence and lustful desires are subdued through a chaste attitude that seeks to mutually extol the value of the other, empowering people as entities endowed with dignity, as apposed to relegating them to chattel for use then discarding them once they have provided the provisionally satiating pleasure of sins temporal power.  A frugal approach to faith and life will always put away the wasteful habits of indolent living that exploits resources in a wasteful manner.

The church that exists in the Postmodern matrix should readily embrace an attitude that:

  • Implement a practice of welcoming Holy Spirit for deeper immersion
  • Pray for an increase of the Spirit’s anointing
  • Seek the Spirit’s grace for expressing sanctification through holy placement in Christ
  • Ask for supernatural empowerment in preaching to transform others
  • Continue to ask for and use the spiritual gifts in ministry
  • Lead people into freedom from bad habits and sinful behavior through an embracing of the anointing
  • Lead people into intimate fellowship as co-heirs with Christ, united by the Spirit
  • Attempt to help people discover fresh insight into the Word through anointed preaching
  • Welcome atmospheric revival Help people sense the presence of the Lord
  • Attempt to walk in a place of balance between dry doctrine and absorption mysticism
  • Lead people into the deeper walk principles
  • Help people experience power for service in the kingdom and in life
  • Help people seek after a victorious expression of Christianity

 

A final word needs to be stated pertaining to the needs of the Postmodern mindset and authenticity.  Authenticity is a rare commodity.  As a value however, being authentic isn’t a top priority within the lives of many people.  There are many factors that create this platform of self-indulgent hypocrisy.  Consumerism and the rise of a culture that allows most of those who live within its boundaries to be found in the possession of great quantities of material substance is one such factor.  When an excessive abundance of possessable items exists as a possibility, external substance tends to become more important than individual issues of openness, character, or sharing, particularly when it comes to transparency on a personal level. There is simply too much risk of loss involved.

Materialism can easily mask internal items of substance, replacing the need for introspection and personal areas of inner discipline.  Character can be crowded out by clutter.  Things, rather than operating as servants for the satisfaction of genuine material needs for life, can quickly become external solutions for internal inadequacies, especially when the entire culture shifts toward an over emphasis on the peripheral gathering of substantive material objects as an indicator or personal value.  Wealth, by virtue of its ability to gather, replaces the need to be truly seen as a person, due to the blinding influence of that which wealth allows into life.

What has been the outcome of this mad dash toward the accumulation of stuff?  The answer to this question is complex and strays far beyond the purpose of this paper, but one glaring problem that has surfaced in this race for the custody of consumable products is a culture that has abandoned the notion of personal safety.  Rather than creating a community that values and protects people, the focus is on valuing and protecting acquisitions.  This has produced a toxic mental state that devalues people, while conversely exalting that which is inanimate or nonhuman.  Possessions become the modern day equivalents of the ancient Greek masks of the muse, allowing others limited access to that which lies behind the artificial barriers of protective insulation that possessed objects become.

Identities can be reformed, changed or created in varying configurations, thus allowing the individual multiple opportunities to project an image that is personally pleasing, yet substantively artificial.  Belongings become, in essence, make-up for the soul’s deficiencies and lack of fabric.  The new measure in a mindset transfixed on the external nature of a persons worth is found in the price of clutter, witnessed by the ability to satiate carnal impulses, and dominate those who are not in the same strata of existence.  This renunciation of character as a supreme value has created a moral vacuum that has produced alarming consequences.  The dissolution of the family as an integral unit may be the greatest victim of this dehumanization of the individual.  It is in the disintegration of the familial unit and the transitional nature of the greater family as society becomes increasingly mobile where the church may find its greatest ability to make inroads into the lives of those who have been disrupted by the changes that have pressed in on the modern sociological configurations that have been overlaid upon western civilization.

 [1]Towns, Elmer, 10 of Today’s Most Innovative Churches ( Regal Books, Pasadena CA, 1990)

[2] Sterling, Wayne, Unpublished notes taken from OBST 620 (Liberty University, Lynchburg VA, Copyrighted: 1971)

[3] see unpublished paper on Larry Crabb’s book: The Safest Place on Earth (Word Publishing, Nashville TN, 1999) p. 10

[4] Jacobs, J. Vernon, 10 Steps to Leadership (Standard Publishing Foundation, Cincinnati, OH 1956) p.87

[5] Smith, Fred, Learning to Lead (Word Publishers, Waco, TX 1987) p. 44

[6] This quote was taken from a lecture at Liberty University during a Intensive taught by Dr. Ron Hawkins    in January  2005 with the class designation: PACO 852

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