Synoptic Gospels Vs.John & the Logos

in-the-beginning-hebrew

In the beginning…

Andreas Köstenberger demonstrates, “At the very outset, John’s gospel claims to represent apostolic eyewitness testimony regarding Jesus’s earthly ministry,”[1] yet only eight percent of John’s Gospel is found in the Synoptic counterparts. Köstenberger also illustrates recent interpretation and criticism focused on two stereotypes: “first, the Synoptic Gospels were interested in history, whereas John, as the ‘spiritual Gospel’ (Clement of Alexandria’s term), favored theology; and second, that John was a product of Hellenistic Christianity, whereas the Synoptic Gospels, in particular Matthew, came from a Jewish milieu.”[2] The debate continues today, but there is no denying the Gospel of John, as Köstenberger substantiates, “contributes an accurate, trustworthy account of Jesus’s life, not merely with regard to theology, but also in terms of history.”

The differences between the Synoptic Gospels and John’s Gospel are overwhelming, but perhaps the biggest difference is John’s interest in drawing out the theological implications of Jesus’s ministry. Leo Percer emphasizes, “the Gospel of John was written to explain further the Johannine view of Christ being divine.”[3] In the Synoptic Gospels, one will find parables and short stories where Jesus conveys a central point, but John’s Gospel contains no parables. Instead, John comprises long discourses where Jesus explains His perspectives. The Synoptic Gospels have the Last Supper, the baptism of Jesus, but in John’s Gospel there is no specific mention of His baptism or the Last Supper. Overall, John portrays Jesus as being divine, the Son of God, and God Himself. While there is a garden prayer found in John, it is not the same Garden of Gethsemane prayer found in the Synoptic Gospels. Lastly, in the Synoptic Gospels, one will see teachings on the kingdom of God, the Sermon on the Mount, the Transfiguration account, yet in John’s Gospel; there is no temptation by Satan in the wilderness and no exorcisms. Instead, John focuses on Jesus’s teachings on life and not the kingdom of God, which is found throughout the Synoptic Gospels. D. A. Carson concludes, “[John] wrote not to supersede or correct Gospels that were already circulating, but because he found them inadequate for his purpose.”[4]

John presents God as the one who sent Jesus, the Father of Jesus, the Christ, and the Messiah. Additionally, while salvation is mentioned in all Gospels, substitutionary atonement is unique to John’s Gospel. Christ had come to take away the sins of the world, so John portrays a divine Messiah and not a crucified Christ. Without the crucifixion, there can be no resurrection, so John writes his Gospel as though the resurrection had already taken place, encouraging his readers to believe in Christ who was raised from the dead, not just because of His Messianic claims, but also because of His divine status.[5]

John’s use of “Word” in the prologue sets the stage for the following twenty chapters and provides a lens to view them through. John takes the reader back to creation to show everything, which had come into being, came through this “Word.” John further demonstrates Jesus is bigger than the universe and the source, but then he switches gears to show how God became flesh and dwelt among us. This transition was profound, since Jesus’s coming had an impact not just on specific souls being saved, but it had an impact on all of creation. God becoming flesh and dwelling among His creation made Him an active participant in the history of creation.

“Word” is the Greek word for logos, but in this occurrence and the one found in Genesis 1, it is so much bigger. God’s “Word” was the divine vehicle for action that brought the world into existence. Logos is only used in the prologue and it is used as a Christological title. There are several potential sources where John could have rooted his use of “Word” in. Logos in stoic thought was reason, the impersonal principle, which governed the universe. Stoics believed everything was ordered by a divine logos and there was no way to avoid it, so all one could do was try to live in harmony with it. Philo understood logos as a representation of God Himself, but John’s logos was not merely another aspect of God; the logos was God. Logos had Jewish and Greek roots as well as linkage to a personified wisdom, however wisdom literature does not view wisdom as part of God, but rather a tool He uses. John’s witness to the incarnation of the Word is perhaps the most important thing for Christians to consider, as Christ became flesh, to provide salvation. Isaiah 55:9-11 demonstrates the word of God always accomplishes the task for which it was sent and never returns void. John Oswalt further demonstrates this principle:

God has spoken to reveal his plans and purposes in the context of human history, and what He has said will be accomplished.[6] Above everything else, these plans and purposes are for good.[7] God intends to bless the human race, to forgive its sins, to redeem its failures, and to give permanence to its work. All this will be accomplished through his revelatory word.[8]

Explaining the role of Jesus in John 1 to a modern reader would begin by showing if someone truly wanted to know God, all he or she would need to do is look at the life and ministry of Jesus. As Percer illustrates, being precedes doing and for Jesus to do the things He did, He had to be God and this is John’s central point. Secondly, essence precedes action, so who He his is revealed by what He does. Jesus told those who challenged His ways and teachings to not judge him by His words, but by His works. Hebrews 1 says Jesus is the exact representation of the godly nature and essence of God. Lastly, John’s detail of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection details how freedom is found through salvation, which only comes through Jesus. Jesus conquered death by dying, which allows believers to not fear death, since Jesus had overcome the grave. John’s primary focus in the prologue is to remind us that our hope and our salvation comes through Jesus who became flesh to provide salvation to all who would believe.

Bibliography

Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John: The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1991.

Köstenberger, Andreas. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013.

Oswalt, John N. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Percer, Leo. Liberty University. NBST 615, Week Two Presentation, “Literary Characteristics and Major Themes of John’s Gospel,” (Video), 2012, 14:34, https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_327810_1&content_id=_13789632_1 (accessed September 7, 2016).

 


[1] Andreas Köstenberger, Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013), 4.

[2] Köstenberger, Encountering John, 201.

[3] Leo Percer, Liberty University, NBST 615, Week Two Presentation, “Literary Characteristics and Major Themes of John’s Gospel,” (Video), 2012, 14:34, https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_327810_1&content_id=_13789632_1 (accessed September 7, 2016).

[4] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John: The Pillar New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1991), 93.

[5] Percer, “Literary Characteristics and Major Themes of John’s Gospel.”

[6] Isaiah 53:10

[7] Jeremiah 29:11

[8] John N. Oswalt, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 446.

A Closer Look at John’s Gospel

gospel_of_john_logo1

Andreas Köstenberger demonstrates, “At the very outset, John’s gospel claims to represent apostolic eyewitness testimony regarding Jesus’s earthly ministry.”[1] This is a crucial component of the internal evidence presented to support Johannine authorship and determines whether the gospel is truly an eyewitness account or merely a later apostolic writing. D. A. Carson also concludes, “The Fourth Gospel can be accepted as what it manifestly purports to be: a reliable witness to the origins, ministry, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus the Messiah.”[2] Following the opening testimony, additional internal evidence refers to the author being the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” This title first occurs at the Last Supper,[3] then in the high priest’s courtyard following the arrest of Jesus,[4] next at the foot of the cross where Jesus was crucified,[5] and lastly at the empty tomb, following the resurrection of Jesus.[6] From these references, this writer and Köstenberger conclude, “the internal evidence points unequivocally to John, the son of Zebedee as the author of John’s gospel.”[7]

External evidence supporting Johannine authorship exists first with the early church fathers, all of which unanimously supported John, the son of Zebedee as the author. In addition, as Köstenberger illustrates, “Irenaeus used John’s gospel to refute Gnostic teaching in the second half of the second century AD, [which] cemented the gospels place in the church’s canon once and for all.”[8] From the second up until the middle of the eighteenth century, the church and most scholars are united in attributing the Fourth Gospel’s authorship to John, the son of Zebedee. During the mid-eighteenth century, literary criticism attempted to discredit Johannine authorship, but today most scholars again agree John, the son of Zebedee is the most likely author. It is imperative to show John authored the fourth gospel because as Köstenberger highlights, “It safeguards this gospel’s character as an apostolic eyewitness testimony.”[9]

The most popular view on the place of writing comes in the form of external evidence from Irenaeus, who said, “John… published the Gospel while he was a resident at Ephesus in Asia.” This, however, does not mean a community of believers in Ephesus was his primary audience. The date of writing is linked closely with two events: the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and Peter’s martyrdom around AD 65. Based on these events, this writer and Köstenberger believe, “John probably wrote his gospel in the AD 80s in Ephesus, primarily to Diaspora Jews and to Gentiles attracted to the Jewish faith, but ultimately to the church at large.”[10] Additional external evidence favors this date, as coins from that time period have been discovered bearing Domitian as Dominus et Deus (Lord and God) the exact Latin translation of Thomas’s confession.[11]

            The destruction of the temple in AD 70 was reminiscent of the Babylonian exile, since there was now no temple to offer sacrifices in. Without a sacrificial system in place and no priesthood, John used these dilemmas as a window of opportunity to evangelize Jews; by showing how Jesus, the Messiah became the final atonement for sin. John then shows how Christ, the Son of the living God had become Prophet, Priest, and King. John wanted his readers to recognize the universal nature of Christianity, found in salvation by faith. Köstenberger further demonstrates, “The gospel’s audience is not limited to its first readers and intended recipients; it also extends to us. And in God’s providence, we may benefit from John’s gospel by deriving spiritual insights from it not even envisioned by John himself.”[12] John’s gospel plays a major role in the spiritual journey of believers and non-believers today in its ability for edification of believers and evangelism for non-believers. The “good news” of John, while not considered a synoptic, is just as relevant today as it was for its intended audience, making it for many the “preferred gospel.”

Bibliography

Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John: The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1991.

Köstenberger, Andreas. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013.


[1] Andreas Köstenberger, Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013), 4.

[2] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John: The Pillar New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1991), 40.

[3] John 13:23

[4] John 18:15

[5] John 19:26-27

[6] John 20:1-8

[7] Köstenberger, Encountering John, 5.

[8] Köstenberger, Encountering John, 6.

[9] Köstenberger, Encountering John, 6.

[10] Ibid., 6.

[11] Ibid., 8.

[12] Köstenberger, Encountering John, 10.

Purpose of Apologetics

Apologetics2

Why do we engage in apologetics?

            Rich Holland clarifies, “apologetics should be used to break down the rational or intellectual barriers one may have, so [he or she] can be more receptive to the gospel [and that is why apologetics] is often referred to as pre-evangelism, because it helps explain and remove barriers, so people become more open to the gospel message.”[1] Holland closes the presentation summing up apologetics as what believers do when they love God and others. This profound truth explains why followers of Christ should be compelled to engage people in apologetics, by defending the faith and evangelizing the lost. Douglas Groothuis adds, “apologetics is offered not only in response to the doubts and denials of non-Christians; it also fortifies believers in their faith, whether they are wrestling with doubts and questions or simply seeking a deeper grounding for their biblical belief.”[2]

What is the audience of apologetics?

Holland further demonstrates, “the love of Christ should compel believers to become ambassadors of God and engage in apologetics. [However,] apologetics is not evangelism because it cannot lead someone to Christ, but apologetics should be directed towards the lost, those who do not follow Christ, atheists, or followers of other religions.”[3] Apologetics and evangelism do share a common goal in pointing people towards Jesus Christ, but it should not come, as a surprise the majority of people may not immediately be open to the message of the gospel. Thus, every believer should be prepared to offer a good defense and reason for God’s plan of redemption, since people are naturally going to have questions and objections.

A basic definition of apologetics:

            James Beilby defines apologetics as, “the attempt to defend a particular belief or system of beliefs against objections… The term derives from the Greek word apologia and was originally used in a legal context.”[4] The apologia was then used in the defense of a plaintiff, in an attempt to show an accusation was untruthful, or to prove innocence.

The biblical basis for apologetics:

            The clearest picture for the biblical basis of apologetics is found in Peter’s first epistle,   “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”[5]  Peter Davids illustrates how, “Both ‘make a defense’[6] and ‘question[7] indicate formal legal or judicial settings, but were also used for informal and personal situations.[8] Rather than fear the unbelievers around them, Christians, out of reverence to Christ, should be prepared to respond fully to their often-hostile questions about the faith.”[9] Beilby demonstrates, “Christian apologetics is the task of defending and commending the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a Christ-like, context-sensitive and audience-specific manner.”[10]

Internal and external apologetics:

Beilby defines, “Internal apologetics taking place with those inside of or internal to Christianity, [while] external apologetics engages skeptics, agnostics, or those outside of or external to Christianity in an apologetic conversation.”[11] Beilby adds, “Christian apologetics involves an action (defending), a focus of the action (the Christian faith itself), a goal (upholding Christianity as true, and a context (the circumstances in which apologetics occurs.”[12] The clear distinction between the two involves internal apologetics focusing on reinforcing faith, removing intellectual barriers, and helping to clarify issues, while external apologetics focuses on changing the mind of skeptics, atheists, and agnostics.

Bibliography

Beilby, James K. Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Davids, Peter H. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle of Peter. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Holland, Rich. Liberty University. APOL 500, Week One Presentation “Introduction to Apologetics–What Is Apologetics?” (Video), 2015, 9:47, https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_317469_1&content_id=_13462346_1 (accessed August 30, 2016).


[1] Rich Holland, Liberty University, APOL 500, Week One Presentation “Introduction to Apologetics–What Is Apologetics?” (Video), 2015, 9:47, https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_317469_1&content_id=_13462346_1 (accessed August 30, 2016).

[2] Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 25.

[3] Holland, Liberty University, APOL 500, Week One Presentation “Introduction to Apologetics.”

[4] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 11.

[5] 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

[6] Acts 25:16, 26:2; 2 Timothy 4:16

[7] Romans 4:12; 1Peter 4:5

[8] Plato, Pol. 285e and 1 Cor. 9:3; 2 Cor. 7:7 respectively

[9] Peter H. Davids, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle of Peter, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 131.

[10] Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics, 30.

[11] Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics, 27.

[12] Ibid., 13.

Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically:Book Review

Pastoral Ministry

       John MacArthur is currently the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry. MacArthur received his education from Talbot Theological Seminary and the emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage. In 1986, MacArthur founded The Master’s Seminary, which is a graduate school dedicated to training men for full-time pastoral roles and missionary work.[1]

        As the fifth successive generation of pastors in his family, at the heart of MacArthur’s vision and mission is the training and equipping of the next generation of pastors, teachers, leaders, and missionaries. By identifying the extent to which society has fallen prey to a consumer driven paradigm, MacArthur sets out to recover, reaffirm, and restore a biblical approach to ministry. MacArthur points out, “To understand one’s role as a minister, one needs to understand the role of the church.”[2] Only by answering the questions as to why the church exists, and what purpose it serves today, can one truly quantify the specific and relevant tasks of any given pastor. To explain this point, MacArthur looks to the historical roles of pastors and compares the calling to that of a shepherd. As a shepherd, the pastor’s primary task is feeding and protecting the flock and this comes in the form of teaching them the Word of God.[3] Without sound teaching and biblical doctrine, the flock will starve and when they do not understand the Word of God, they cannot apply its truth to their daily lives. Upon establishing the theological and historical roles of the pastor, MacArthur shifts the focus to the character and calling of the pastor. He demonstrates in order for a pastor to remain faithful to his or her calling, intimacy with God must continually be the focal point, since Bible knowledge will only get the pastor to a certain point. To truly be effective in their calling, the pastor must also maintain a moral life centered on godliness. MacArthur demonstrates, “[While] the focal point of any ministry is godliness, ministry is, and always must be an overflow of a godly life.”[4] Next, MacArthur speaks to personal practices, which must be evident and demonstrates the pastor’s home is often the best indicator of character. He explains, “Sexual sin defiles the flock of God… [and] if you want to know whether a man lives an exemplary life, whether he is consistent, whether he can teach and model the truth, and whether he can lead people to salvation, to holiness, and to serve God, then look at the most intimate relationships in his home life and see if he can do it there.”[5] Lastly, as pastors, MacArthur illustrates the importance of living a life of integrity and above reproach, so when problems and misunderstandings arise, the pastors are equipped to handle them and this ability is rooted in godly character. MacArthur demonstrates, “Spiritual leadership without character is only religious activity, possibly religious business or, even worse, hypocrisy.”[6] Pastors are held to a higher standard, so pastors must live a life modeled after Christ, which means they must be able to love the sheep, to feed the sheep, to rescue the sheep, to attend and comfort the sheep, to guide the sheep, to guard and protect the sheep, and to watch over the sheep.[7]

Critique

            For such a great collection of timeless principles with tremendous practical application, the one area this writer finds troubling is MacArthur’s primary focus solely being on men as pastors. With ten to twenty percent of most denominations having women pastors and thirty percent of Master of Divinity students being women,[8] it would seem having at least some application geared towards men and women would significantly add to MacArthur’s goal in training and equipping the next generation of pastors and leaders. Women, historically have had a huge impact, since the inception of the early church and the same holds true today. MacArthur illustrates, “A strong home begins with the pastor… [and] a weak home means a weak ministry,”[9] so if the woman is the pastor in the home, guidance is needed to help those classified in this example. Satan hates the family because of what it stands for: intimacy and unity with God and because anything God stands for Satan will either try to destroy, pervert, or counterfeit, the sanctity of the family must continually be safeguarded. As pastors, so much is sacrificed on the altar of ministry and for this reason MacArthur’s teaching would be significantly more relevant if it contained guidance for woman as pastors, regardless if they are married or not. MacArthur’s three biblical benchmarks all point to, “If a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church?”[10] These statements and examples almost seem to invalidate the role of women as pastors. The one area this writer agrees with MacArthur on is ministry must be a joint decision, meaning the husband and wife must both be committed to full-time ministry, regardless if the pastoral calling applies to the man, the woman, or to both.

            What MacArthur exceedingly does well is illuminating how, “we as pastors tend to address surface problems without looking beyond them to the real problems facing the church, [demonstrating] if the only resource is to depend fully upon the Lord, then [we] would spend more time on our faces in His presence, seeking His help.”[11] The pastor’s strength is directly proportional to his or her faith, trust, and dependence on the Lord’s strength. It is in this area MacArthur stresses the importance of private and corporate prayer, studying God’s Word for personal reflection, in addition to sermon preparation, and worshipping God outwardly, inwardly, and upwardly.[12] These spiritual disciplines help sustain intimacy with God and will prevent ministry threats from gaining a foothold. MacArthur lists laziness as one of the greatest threats facing pastors,[13] which fits right in line with the congregations’ great weakness being complacency. Today’s culture demands everything faster, easier, and cheaper, but developing a relationship with God and people takes time, is sometimes extremely difficult, and can be very costly, as the needs of others are elevated above your own.

Evaluation

            The moral decay occurring in society is alarming and the number of pastors and leaders who suffer burnout or moral failures is equally as disturbing. Pastors are essentially God’s shepherds over His flock: the church, so this calling is not to be taken lightly. MacArthur and his fellows at The Master’s Seminary offer sound biblical principles with practical application, so this work would be beneficial for anyone currently serving or wanting to serve in a ministry setting and most of his perspectives can even be applied to the secular workplace. Every time-tested strategy and principle listed to becoming a better pastor can also be applied to becoming a better Christian. For those who feel called to ministry, this writer would highly recommend reading MacArthur’s views on what a pastor is supposed to be and do, the steps to identifying and answering the call to ministry, recommended equipping and training, and the importance of learning how to have compassion for God’s children. Knowing it roughly takes two to three generations to impact the status quo of what is viewed as cultural normal, this writer’s hope is for the upcoming generations to learn how to allow the love of Christ to fuel their ministry and empower their compassion for others. MacArthur has successfully shown the best way to maintain an authentic ministry involves being humble and being willing to work hard, even if it means going after the one lost sheep, while remembering what we as pastors do for the least of them, we do for the Master.

MacArthur, John. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005, 363 pp. $29.99 (Hardback).

Bibliography

Grace Church Website, https://www.gracechurch.org/leader/MacArthur/John (accessed August 18, 2016)

MacArthur, John. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005

Pulliam, Sarah. Christianity Today Website. http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2009/august/women-pastors-remain-scarce.html (accessed August 18, 2016).


[1] Grace Church Website, https://www.gracechurch.org/leader/MacArthur/John (accessed August 18, 2016)

[2] John MacArthur, Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2005), 50.

[3] II Timothy 4:2

[4] MacArthur, Pastoral Ministry, 94.

[5] Ibid., 70.

[6] Ibid., 91.

[7] Ibid., 274.

[8] Sarah Pulliam, Christianity Today Website, http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2009/august/women-pastors-remain-scarce.html (accessed August 18, 2016).

[9] MacArthur, Pastoral Ministry, 124.

[10] Ibid., 123.

[11] MacArthur, Pastoral Ministry, 147.

[12] Ibid., 199.

[13] Ibid., 301.

Ignatius of Loyola & the Jesuits

SOJ

       The founding of the Jesuits was a defining moment in the history of the church, as the Society of Jesus played an essential role in restoring the moral and ethical standards of the Roman Catholic Church. The order was extremely successful in this regard and the Jesuits continue to play a vital role in the papacy, even today. However, if Ignatius Loyola’s mandate as “soldiers of God under the banner of the cross” was to stop the Reformation movement from sweeping across Europe, the same cannot be said.

Introduction

       Since the inception of the early church, there have been a great many movements, which have either attacked or defended the authority of the church and her doctrine, thus shaping how the church exists today. Of these movements, the Protestant Reformation produced one of the largest divides the church has ever faced. John Woodbridge and Frank James illustrate, “If the Roman Inquisition was a defensive measure against the rise of Protestantism, the Jesuits represented the offensive weapon of the Counter-Reformation, [and] there was no person who embodied the Counter-Reformation more than the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola.”[1] On September 27, 1540, Pope Paul III approved the Society of Jesus as a new order with the bull Regimini militantis ecclesiae (To the Government of the Church Militant). The founding of the Jesuits came five years prior to the Council of Trent in 1545, which marked the beginning of the Counter-Reformation, so this stands to reason the Society was not formed purposefully as a military order. In fact, those who joined the Society would often take vows of poverty, chastity, and would make pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Many of the Jesuit’s members were also responsible for caring for the sick and poor and one of the principal goals of the group was the education and scholarship of the people. By caring for the needs of others and focusing on education, the far-reaching spread and impact of the Jesuits would be felt across the world.

Ignatius Loyola’s Supernatural Experience

       Ignatius of Loyola was born in Basque, a northern region of Spain sometime around 1491 to a noble family and he began his career as a soldier in 1509 in service to the Duke of Nájera. Woodbridge and James, illustrate how Loyola’s life would forever change on May 20, 1521: “while defending the city of Pamplona against the army of Francis I, a French cannonball shattered his right leg and injured the other leg.”[2] Without the aid of anesthesia, Loyola had to endure multiple surgeries in excruciating pain, in an attempt to save his legs. Woodbridge and James expound, “While convalescing in his hometown in Spain, Loyola underwent a profound conversion experience. During this time he read De Vita Christi (The Life of Christ) by Ludolph of Saxony. Particularly notable was Ludolph’s proposal that the reader place himself in the gospel story.”[3] Du Moustier illustrates, “Ludolph dwelt at length upon the events and teachings recorded in the Gospels and commented upon them abundantly from the Fathers of the Church and later spiritual authors. Loyola was certainly influenced in his conversion, by reading the Vita Christi, and Ludolph’s method of meditation left its mark on the one adopted in the Spiritual Exercises.”[4] This conversion experience, prompted by picturing himself in the metanarrative of Jesus and the gospel, led him to write Spiritual Exercises. After this supernatural encounter, Loyola decided to become a soldier for Christ, walking away from his military career. He instead spent time in seclusion where he also underwent asceticism and more mystical experiences. The insights gained from these encounters became the basis of his theology and led him to journey to the Holy Land. On his return trip he was imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition, on the charge of heresy, but was exonerated and eventually released. Loyola then spent seven years at the University of Paris acquiring his master’s degree. Towards the end of his education, Loyola had found six other students who shared the same passions. Some notable members were: Francis Xavier, a missionary to Japan and India, and Diego Laínez, an influential theologian at the Council of Trent and Loyola’s eventual successor. In 1530, with his six comrades by his side, Loyola’s wish of becoming soldiers of God came to pass, thus giving rise to the Jesuits.

Purpose of Jesuits

       While the Counter-Reformation was not the primary reason Loyola founded the Jesuits, the Society of Jesus still played an integral role in the Counter-Reformation efforts and were considered ultimately to be a Roman Catholic missionary organization. Loyola was a captivating commander who played a vital role in winning back many of the European followers who had converted to Protestantism. His original plans for the newly formed Jesuits included traveling to Jerusalem as missionaries to the Muslims, but the war between the Turks and the Venetian Republic prevented this trip. Instead, Loyola would appear before Pope Paul III offering himself and his companions in service to the papacy. More than anything, as Woodbridge and James demonstrate, “Loyola wanted this new order to serve the Lord alone and the Church his Spouse, under the Roman pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth.”[5] Historian Will Durant maintains, “The Society of Jesus would not only accept the old conventual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but would go forth into the world to spread the orthodox faith, and to fight, everywhere in Christendom, against religious heresy or revolt.”[6] In the sixteen years Loyola would lead the Jesuits, missionaries totaled more than one thousand and were sent to Brazil, India, Ethiopia and the Congo Region. The leadership of Loyola undoubtedly played a crucial role in maintaining the power of the papacy and thwarting the further progression of the Reformation movement in Europe.

Ignatius Loyola’s Vision for the Jesuits

       When Loyola created the Society of Jesus, Woodbridge and James explain the term: “Jesuit was originally a derogatory term referring to one who employs the name of Jesus too quickly and too often… [However,] Loyola rehabilitated the term to… [mean] an elite order organized along military lines and distinguished by its iron discipline and obedience to the papacy.”[7] Loyola sought out only devout followers and required two trial years of all candidates before any traditional vows were taken. Upon completion of this stage, the candidate would then undergo another ten years of academic study covering everything from philosophy to theology. Only after completing all of these requirements were the candidates allowed to swear an oath of allegiance to the pope. Woodbridge and James demonstrate, “In the Jesuit Constitutions, Loyola stressed that obedience to the pope must be perinde ac cadaver (in the manner of a corpse), which was Loyola’s way of demanding absolute obedience,”[8] going as far to say in his Spiritual Exercises, “If we wish to proceed securely in all things, we must hold fast to the following principle: What seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchal church so defines.”[9]

Spiritual Exercises

       The Spiritual Exercises were meant to assist people in finding God’s will, while also providing courage, perseverance, and motivation to fulfill what God was calling the reader to do. Tim Perrine further explains, “A key theme throughout the Spiritual Exercises is discernment–the need to discern between good desires and evil desires in one’s life. It is by following the four weeks, and by utilizing such discernment, that a person can better realize God’s will for his or her own life.” While the Spiritual Exercises do not teach doctrine or morals, Antonio De Nicolâas explains, “When used by an experienced master, they prepare a person to experience and to discern the affects that accompany the practice of living the ‘memory’ of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.”[10] Much can be learned from the writings of Loyola and there is little doubt regarding his tremendous goal of serving God, but balancing that desire while also serving the Roman pontiff was a very fine line. Loyola’s asceticism went far beyond extreme, as he believed strongly in the penance of sins, causing him to scourge and starve himself. He believed and wrote, “What appears most suitable and most secure with regard to penance is that the pain should be sensible in the flesh and not enter within the bones, so that it give pain and not illness. For this, it appears to be more suitable to scourge oneself with thin cords, which gives pain exteriorly, rather than in another way which would cause notable illness within.”[11] His writing of the Spiritual Exercises focused on four weeks or periods of time. In the first, the focus is on human sin; in the second, the focus is on Christ’s life on earth; in the third, the focus shifts to Christ’s death on the cross; and in the forth, the focus is on the risen Christ and His life. Loyola accomplished much in his lifetime, but he would eventually succumb to a fatal case of the Roman fever on July 31, 1556. This fate was surprisingly not uncommon for many of the Jesuits, since those in the order had regular contact with the sick and dying, caring for their needs. His place in history is solidified, and as a result of his contributions to the papacy, in 1622 he would be canonized a Catholic saint by Pope Gregory XV.

Mission of Jesuits

       While serving the Lord was the foundational ethos of the Jesuits, Woodbridge and James demonstrate over time, “The Jesuits were often viewed as willing to do anything to further their goals, [earning the Jesuits] the motto Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (For the greater glory of God), which reflected the conviction that no act is evil if the intent was to bring glory to God.”[12] This belief system contributed to the immense success of the Jesuits in three key areas: (1) the establishment of schools and universities throughout Europe; (2) worldwide missions; and (3) stopping the advancement of Protestantism in Europe. In 1548, the Jesuits opened the first college in Sicily and by 1579; the Jesuits were overseeing one hundred forty-four colleges. While Loyola had not envisioned the order’s members becoming teachers, the unwavering discipline exhibited by its members caused the Jesuits to experience great success in this profession. Ultimately, education opened the door for the order to engage in worldwide missions, even in areas who did not share the same religious views. Woodbridge and James emphasize the last key area of success was the most significant accomplishment, as the Jesuits prevented Protestantism from spreading into Poland, Lithuania, and southern Germany.[13] Despite the Jesuits undeniable role in preventing the spread of Protestantism, the first two hundred years were focused on scholarship and serving the needy. The Society of Jesus viewed the whole world as their church, so pastoral care, missions, and hospitals were a huge part of the Jesuits’ missional focus and initiatives. However, over time, there began to be an overwhelming presence of soldiers in the Jesuits’ ranks, which would eventually contribute to immense opposition the order faced by philosophers, deists, and foreign powers.

       The struggle between the Jansenists and the Jesuits remains one of the most notable conflicts and was felt in Spain, Austria, Austrian Netherlands, the city-states of Italy, and Utrecht. Woodbridge and James demonstrate, “Jansen had proposed an interpretation of St. Augustine’s posthumous work Augustinus that – in extolling God’s majesty, awesome power, justice, and righteousness – challenged any role we humans might have in winning our salvation through free will. Instead, the elect are saved by God’s grace alone”[14] This meant when someone came to faith, he or she was transformed and as a result of that act, he or she would want to do the will of God voluntarily. Essentially, salvation should compel those who are saved to love God and others by treating everyone as a neighbor.[15] However, as Woodbridge and James illustrate, “Molina, a Spanish Jesuit argued sufficient grace provides us with the strength to do good using our free will. God elects us according to His foreknowledge of what He knows we will do using our free choice.”[16] The Jansenists criticized the Jesuits because of the order’s allegiance to the papal monarchy, their appreciation of pagan culture, and their worldliness. The Jesuits criticized the Jansenists as being crypto-Protestants and republicans and the Jesuits believed if man were to truly follow reason there would be no way for him or her to live a moral life. Neither side would budge on their positions and Woodbridge and James show how, “The Jansenists gained a sense of revenge against the Jesuits when the Parlements of France expelled the Society of Jesus from the kingdom and the French colonies.[17] After this, the Jansenists took on more of a political role rather than strictly theological and this new strategy coupled with the Chinese Rites Controversy had left the reputation of the Jesuits in poor standing.

       One of the most controversial acts the order was instigated in was the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, which sought to assassinate King James I and members of the British Parliament. It was common knowledge Jesuits would take any action if that meant following orders from the pope or superior ranking members. Loyola taught and required complete obedience to the pope, which he said must always be perinde ac cadaver. As Mark Nicholls clarifies, “There is scope to suggest that the ringleaders were pragmatists, informed by history, and in step with the politics of the age. While they aimed at a religious upheaval, and drew on the power of religious conviction, they were essentially political creatures, who had worked for years in the political heartland.”[18] Nicholls explains, “To understand the Gunpowder Plot, it is necessary to look beyond Fawkes and his barrels, beyond all the evidential difficulties, and to see the enterprise for what it was, a failed rebellion…The traditional, and enduring, tendency to emphasize their family connections, and their shared militant Catholicism, actually masks differences in motives and ambitions.”[19] Following the Council of Trent, the Jesuits were charged with saving the Latin nations for the Roman Church by restating the orthodox faith, reforming ecclesiastical abuses, and restoring discipline and morality among the clergy.[20] Diarmaid MacCulloch further reveals, “[The Jesuits’] missionary goal was to make a reality of Pope Gregory VII’s ancient vision: to see the world turning in obedience to the Church ruled over by Christ’s Vicar on Earth.”[21] In the centuries that followed the formation of the Society, the Jesuits set up ministries around the globe and as Malachi Martin demonstrates, “There was no continent they did not reach; no known language they did not speak and study; no culture they did not penetrate; no branch of learning and science they did not explore; no work in humanism they did not undertake; and no form of death by violence they did not undergo.”[22] Being a Jesuit meant enduring a life of great risk as many priests were martyred and persecuted by nations unresponsive to conversion to Catholicism. Durant emphasizes the Jesuits’ success was directly related to discipline citing, “Their willingness to obey was the first step in learning to command.”[23] Following the Council of Trent, MacCulloch adds, “ The Jesuits, full of their newfound enthusiasm for confronting Protestantism… became the backbone of an increasingly militant Catholic response to the growth of the Reformation movement and Protestantism.”[24]

Change of Command

       Upon the passing of Loyola, Martin explains, “The force of his personality and the example of his presence disappeared with him. Now that he was gone, those of his original companions who survived him… found it necessary to formulate and regulate the life of each individual Jesuit with rules and prescribed practices.”[25] Diego Laínez was one of the original six soldiers of God and became Loyola’s successor, making him the second General of the Society of Jesus (1558 – 1565). By 1565, there were three thousand five hundred Jesuits, and despite the slow growth in northern Europe, the Society experienced tremendous growth in Spain, Portugal, and Sicily. Stopping the spread of Protestantism is normally associated with the Jesuits’ mission, but in these regions, Islam’s advancement was the real threat and the order played a major role in stopping its advancement. Laínez was also the papal theologian at all three periods of the Council of Trent and was instrumental in the continued advancement of the Jesuits.

       Upon the passing of Laínez, Francis Borgia would become the third General of the Society of Jesus (1565 – 1572). Borgia was a Spanish Jesuit and the fourth Duke of Gandía. Many to this day still associate the Borgia name with prominence within the Jesuit order. Upon Gandía’s passing, Everard Mercurian would become the first non-Spaniard General of the Society of Jesus (1573 – 1580). Pope Gregory XIII sought this outcome and Mercurian would receive the endorsement as General from the Fathers of the Congregation with a vote of twenty-seven out of forty-seven on April 23, 1573.[26] Mercurian continued to expand the Society to over five thousand members represented in over eighteen provinces and was influential in preparing the Summary of the Constitutions from Loyola’s manuscripts and establishing the Common Rules of the Society. He would eventually succumb to the influenza outbreak while caring for and visiting the sick. As previously mentioned, this type of death was not uncommon and was viewed as being martyr of the order. Joining the order in 1567, Claudio Acquaviva would succeed Mercurian (1581 – 1615). The influence of the pope was undeniable, but Pope Gregory XIII was nonetheless surprised when Acquaviva, at the young age of thirty-seven was elected, making him the youngest General. During Acquaviva’s leadership the Jesuits continued expansion into India, Japan, and China. By the end of his command the order had established new missions in Paraguay and Canada. Acquaviva’s leadership and accomplishments are undeniable and at the time of his passing in 1615, the Society had tripled in size to over thirteen thousand members.[27] Mutio Vitelleschi would succeed Acquaviva and would serve as General for the following thirty years (1615 – 1645). Vitelleschi was a professor of physics, theology, and philosophy at the Roman College and some scholars consider him to be the first non-Spaniard to be elected General, despite Mercurian being from Belgium.[28] Upon Vitelleschi’s passing, Vincenzo Carafa would become the seventh General of the Society, serving only four years (1645 – 1649). Six additional Generals were selected leading up to Thyrsus González de Santalla, who became the thirteenth General, closing out the seventeenth century of Jesuits (1686 – 1705). Michelangelo Tamburini succeeded González becoming the eighteenth General, (1706 – 1730) leading to the mid to late seventeenth century, which for the Jesuits, was a time of increasing persecution and hostility from foreign nations outside of Rome. Ultimately, in 1773 Pope Clement XIV dissolved the order due to an increasing pressure from the Catholic powers and Bourbon monarchs and fear of losing the papacy city-states. As a result, the Jesuits of the sixteenth century looked much different than those in the eighteenth century, due to the rise of nationalism, leading the Jesuits to become subjugated. It was not until 1814 that Pope Pius VII gave in to popular demand and reestablished the Jesuits as an order, and they continue their missionary work to this day.[29]

Modern-Day Jesuits

       In his book Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, former catholic priest Charles Chiniquy argues: “The Jesuits are a military organization, not a religious order. Their chief is the general of an army, not the mere father abbot of a monastery. And the aim of this organization is power. Absolute power, universal power, power to control the world by the volition of a single man.” Martin adds that wars are all about power and “in war, power flows along the lines of two fundamental issues: authority and purpose.”[30] Despite how far removed the Jesuits have become since Loyola and his six comrades shared a similar vision, David Cloud demonstrates still to this day, “Next to Loyola’s tomb in the Chiesa del Gesu, the Jesuit headquarters in Rome, is a 16th century statue depicting Mary violently casting Protestant Reformers Martin Luther and John Huss out of heaven because of their doctrines of “scripture alone” and “grace alone.”[31] The statue’s title is ‘The Triumph of the Faith over Heresy’ and the Council of Trent’s proclamation specifically related to any person who believed the Bible alone was the standard for faith or that salvation was by the grace alone. It went as far as to issue a curse against anyone who believed otherwise.  Cloud further demonstrates how, “In spite of the ecumenical ventures of the Catholic Church in recent decades, the Council of Trent has never been rescinded and the same monument in the Jesuit Church features an angel gleefully tearing up a small book, depicting either “heretical” Protestant books or the vernacular Bible translations that were condemned by Rome.”[32]

Conclusion

       For an organization founded nearly half a millennium ago, there is no denying the success and influence the Jesuits had and continue to have today, especially in light of all the other religious movements, which have failed across the world. Loyola and his six friends have grown into an order of twenty-five thousand members operating in over one hundred countries. The founding of the Jesuits has remained a defining moment in the history of the church, as the Society of Jesus not only played an essential role in restoring the moral and ethical standards of the Roman Catholic Church, but the order also cared for the needy, the sick, and educated over one million students. These initiatives opened the doors to evangelize the world and aided in the secondary objective of slowing the spread of Protestantism.

Bibliography

Bireley, Robert. The Jesuits and the Thirty Years War: Kings, Courts, and Confessors. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Cloud, David. Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond. Port Huron, MI: Way of Life Literature, 2008. E-book.

De Nicolâas, Antonio T., and Ignatius. Ignatius De Loyola, Powers of Imagining: A Philosophical Hermeneutic of Imagining Through the Collected Works of Ignatius De Loyola, with a Translation of These Works. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed August 3, 2016).

Du Moustier, B. “Ludolph of Saxony.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 852-853. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3407706912 http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX3407706912&v=2.1&u=vic_liberty&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w&asid=66e2642bc36309de50ec4b6f197b1065 (accessed August 19, 2016).

Durant, Will. The Reformation: The Story of Civilization V. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1953.

__________. The Renaissance: The Story of Civilization VI. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1957.

Ignatius, and Elder Mullan. n.d. The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Grand Rapids, MI: Generic NL Freebook Publisher, n.d. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed August 3, 2016).

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. New York, NY: Penguin Group Publishing, 2009.

___________. The Reformation: A History. New York, NY: Penguin Group Publishing, 2003.

Martin, Malachi. The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Publishing, 1987.

McGoldrick, James. “The Historical Necessity For Creeds And Confessions Of Faith,” – Reformation and Revival 10, no. 2 (Spring), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Mullan, Father Elder S. J. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Translated from the Autograph by Father Elder Mullan. New York, NY: P.J. & Sons, 1914.

Nicholls, Mark. “STRATEGY AND MOTIVATION IN THE GUNPOWDER PLOT.” The Historical Journal 50, no. 4 (12, 2007): 787-807, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/194929080?accountid=12085. (accessed August 4, 2015).

O’Malley, John W. The Jesuits: A History from Ignatius to the Present. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., 2014.

Slivka, Daniel. “Reformation Versus Council of Trent and Rules for Interpretation,” E-Theologos. Theological revue of Greek Catholic Theological Faculty 3, no. 1 (April) 28 -37. ISSN 1335-5570

Woodbridge, John D. and Frank A. James III. Church History, Volume II: From Pre-Reformation of the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.


[1] Woodbridge, John D. and Frank A. James III. Church History, Volume II: From Pre-Reformation of the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 205.

[2] Woodbridge and James, Church History, 206.

[3] Ibid.

[4] B. Du Moustier, “Ludolph of Saxony.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 852-853. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3407706912 http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX3407706912&v=2.1&u=vic_liberty&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w&asid=66e2642bc36309de50ec4b6f197b1065 (accessed August 19, 2016).

[5] Woodbridge and James, Church History, 207.

[6] Will Durant, The Renaissance: The Story of Civilization V, (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1953), 689.

[7] Woodbridge and James, Church History, 207.

[8] Ibid., 207-208.

[9] Ignatius, and Elder Mullan. n.d. The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Grand Rapids, MI: Generic NL Freebook Publisher, n.d. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed August 3, 2016).

[10] Antonio T. De Nicolâas, and Ignatius. Ignatius De Loyola, Powers of Imagining: A Philosophical Hermeneutic of Imagining Through the Collected Works of Ignatius De Loyola, with a Translation of These Works. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed August 3, 2016).

[11] S. J. Mullan, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Translated from the Autograph by Father Elder Mullan, (New York, NY: P.J. & Sons, 1914), 38.

[12] Woodbridge and James, Church History, 208.

[13] Ibid., 208-209.

[14] Woodbridge and James, Church History, 436.

[15] Matthew 22:36-40

[16] Woodbridge and James, Church History, 437.

[17] Ibid., 442.

[18] Mark Nicholls, “STRATEGY AND MOTIVATION IN THE GUNPOWDER PLOT,” The Historical Journal 50, no. 4 (12, 2007): 806, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/194929080?accountid=12085. (accessed August 5, 2015).

[19] Nicholls, “STRATEGY AND MOTIVATION IN THE GUNPOWDER PLOT,” 806.

[20] Durant, The Renaissance, 691.

[21] Diarmaid MacCulloch, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, (New York, NY: Penguin Group Publishing, 2009), 688.

[22] Malachi Martin, The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church, (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Publishing, 1987), 27.

[23] Will Durant, The Reformation: The Story of Civilization VI, (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1957), 912.

[24] Diarmaid MacCullock, The Reformation: A History, (New York, NY: Penguin Group Publishing, 2003), 300.

[25] Martin, The Jesuits, 200.

[26] John W. O’Malley, S.J., The Jesuits: A History from Ignatius to the Present, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., 2014), 31-34.

[27]  Martin, The Jesuits, 201-203 & 231-233.

[28] Robert Bireley, The Jesuits and the Thirty Years War: Kings, Courts, and Confessors, (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 22.

[29] O’Malley, The Jesuits, 79-80.

[30] Martin, The Jesuits, 14.

[31] David Cloud, Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, (Port Huron, MI: Way of Life Literature, 2008), E-book.

[32] Cloud, Contemplative Mysticism, E-book.

Muslims in Evangelical Churches

WWJD

       James Hood, in his article Muslims in Evangelical Churches poses the question whether loving your neighbor means opening the church doors to false worship? Hood highlights two churches, which opened their doors for Muslims to use the church buildings as mosques. At Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee, pastor Steve Stone came to the decision to allow Muslims to worship on church property by asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” At Aldersgate Methodist church in Alexandria, Virginia, pastor Jason Micheli appealed to evangelical and exclusivist reasoning stating, “When we say that Jesus is the only way to the Father, we do not just mean our belief in Jesus is the only way to the Father. We also mean Jesus’ way of live is the only way we manifest the Father’s love.”

       There are multiple theological issues at play in these scenarios and throughout Scripture the Great Commandment[1] and the Great Commission[2] are among the top appeals Christ calls His followers to perform and embody. In the Old Testament, the Shema[3] calls followers to love the Lord their God above all others, so the issue of allowing idol worship to happen in the church is a highly debatable topic. While the church is not confined to the traditional four walls, there is precedence with the Great Commandment, the Great Commission, and the Shema, which cannot be ignored. Peter C. Craigie illustrates:

The Shema ultimately means: ‘Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is ‘One.’ These words, which have been called the fundamental monotheistic dogma of the Old Testament, have both practical and theological implications. The Israelites had already discovered the practical implications when they… discovered the uniqueness of their God… [and it] was because they had experienced the living presence of their God in history that the Israelites could call the Lord our God. The theological implications and the context of this verse indicate its source as a direct revelation from God. The word expresses not only the uniqueness but also the unity of God.[4]

       Growing up in a military community, the base chapel was shared by a multiplicity of denominations, some Christian and some far from it and it was the job of the chaplain to relate to multiple denominations of faith. This model and upbringing makes the Muslims’ use of Christian churches seem less about theology and more about embodying the love and compassion of Christ. At the same time, one cannot ignore when Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”[5]
If the churches in this article had opened up their doors as shelters due to a state of emergency, this writer wonders if it would have been an issue at all. Ultimately it comes down to stewardship. What churches do with what God has entrusted to them is the fundamental question. This writer believes by opening the doors and allowing the Muslims to use the facility acts as an olive branch of peace, which over time will hopefully develop into relationships, and is where the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will have the ability to be applied. Jesus came to seek the lost, the sick, and the hurting people. Christians must realize, “the church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners,” and by opening the doors to Muslims they have increased their mission field exponentially.

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Deuteronomy, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Hood, James B. 2011. “Muslims in Evangelical Churches.” Christianity Today, January 3, 2011. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/januaryweb-only/muslimsevangelical.html   (accessed August 18, 2016).


[1] Matthew 22:36-40

[2] Matthew 28:16-20

[3] Deuteronomy 6:4-9

[4] Peter C. Craigie, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Deuteronomy, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 168-169.

[5] Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV)

A God-Sized Vision: Book Review

God sized vision

            Collin Hansen is an American journalist and editor of The Gospel Coalition. He received his undergrad from Northwestern in history and journalism and his Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical. Hansen is also considered to be an expert on New Calvinism, which is a movement within conservative Evangelicalism. It ultimately seeks to combine the fundamentals of sixteenth century Calvinism with present-day culture.[1] John Woodbridge received his BA from Wheaton College, his MA from Michigan State, his Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical, and his Doctorat de Troisieme Cycle from the Universite de Toulouse, France. Woodbridge serves as research professor of church history and the history of Christian thought at Trinity Evangelical and specializes in evangelicalism, fundamentalism, origins of higher criticism, the French enlightenment, the French Huguenots, and history of the Bible’s authority.[2]

          Hansen and Woodbridge first set out to demonstrate since few people alive today have ever experienced the true power of revival, there exists a disconnect between what is prayed for and what God is capable of doing through a God-sized vision. Revivals have served many purposes in the history of the church, many of which have led to renewal of faith and the outpouring of God’s Spirit. Secondly, Hansen and Woodbridge demonstrate repentance and prayer are the common denominators and the beginnings to every revival. Prayer is what takes the finite hopes and dreams of mankind and places them in the infinite realm of God’s supernatural omnipotence. Repentance prepares and cleanses the heart, allowing God it to be filled until it overflows with love, mercy, and grace for the people who need to feel the same supernatural presence and encounter with God.  Thirdly, Hansen and Woodbridge demonstrate the necessity of having a God-sized vision, which focuses on the supreme will of God and specifically what He wants to do in and through the church. For example, Charles Finney believed, “Christians have waited for God to move, when all along God has gifted the church with everything it needs to spark revival… Finney deployed ‘new measures’ [like the] anxious seat, which became a staple of American evangelism leading to practices such as the altar call.”[3] Lastly, Hansen and Woodbridge highlight multiple revivals, to plant the seed of faith in the reader’s mind, and to demonstrate God is capable of much more than man can ever dream of.

Part II

          Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge illustrate, “Though God alone can instigate revival, the church need not wait idly… When Christians petition God for revival, they acknowledge that all their efforts to organize and contextualize go for naught unless God goes before them.”[4] Prayer is vital in the individual believer’s life, but also in the corporate setting. Without targeted prayer the Welsh Revival of 1904 and 1905 may have never happened. Evan Roberts was a direct result of prayer by Seth Johnson who prayed God would rise up a young man to lead the church in revival. Robert’s vision was to see one hundred thousand souls saved, which is exactly how many were. Robert’s accomplishments were great, but he also had shortcomings. Hansen and Woodbridge explain, “Wales seems to have entirely forgotten its revival legacy [and is now] more immune to revival today because it has been inoculated with heavy doses of undiluted religious fervor.”[5] Lack of spiritual discipline played a major role is this diagnosis, as Hansen and Woodbridge illustrate the 1859 revival taught biblical doctrine while many of the converts in the 1904 revival instead sought mystical experiences.[6] Hansen and Woodbridge then demonstrate, “Without basic biblical formation, many caught up in the revival lacked the necessary tools for spiritual growth.”[7] This is a crucial principle in churches today as many Christians have turned into spiritual junkies, moving from one experience to the next. It is crucial to teach balance and biblical doctrine, especially as it relates to the outpouring of God’s Spirit. Hansen and Woodbridge further explain the importance of understanding church history as, “Revival is neither a well-organized evangelistic campaign nor a finely crafted apologetic treatise… Revival transcends all ordinary ways we comprehend and communicates the grace of Jesus Christ.”[8] As revivals continue to spread across the world, racism remains a sore spot in the history of the church, so repentance is a crucial area to emphasize. A. Derwin illustrates, “less than five percent of evangelical churches are multi-ethnic… [making the] evangelical church one of the most segregated people in America on Sunday morning. The lines of color must be crossed and perhaps one of the best examples is the Azusa Street Revival. This Pentecostalism was interracial and as Frank Bartleman noted, “The ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood of the Lamb.”[9] Ultimately, the future of the church rests solely on whether denominations and ministry leaders can set aside minor differences and unify one another by embracing the Great Commission[10] and the Great Commandment.[11] The church is purposely made up of many parts, and when those parts are working together, God will do mighty things as the world comes to know the love of Christ through the actions of His followers.

A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir, By Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge. Zondervan Publishing, 2010, 194 pp. $16.99 (Paperback).

Bibliography

Bartleman, Frank. How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: As It Was in the Beginning, in Witness to Pentecost: The Life of Frank Bartleman, ed. Donald W. Dayton. New York, NY: Garland, 1985.

Cairns, Earle E. An Endless Line of Splendor: Revivals and Their Leaders from the Great Awakening to the Present. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1986.

Hansen, Collin and John Woodbridge. A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2010.

The Gospel Coalition Website, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/about/staff# (accessed August 17, 2016).

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Website, http://divinity.tiu.edu/academics/faculty/john-d-woodbridge-phd/ (accessed August 17, 2016).


[1] The Gospel Coalition Website, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/about/staff# (accessed August 17, 2016).

[2] Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Website, http://divinity.tiu.edu/academics/faculty/john-d-woodbridge-phd/ (accessed August 17, 2016).

[3] Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 33.

[4] Ibid., 35.

[5] Ibid., 115.

[6] Earle E. Cairns, An Endless Line of Splendor: Revivals and Their Leaders from the Great Awakening to the Present, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1986), 196-197.

[7] Hansen and John Woodbridge, A God-Sized Vision, 115.

[8] Ibid., 35.

[9] Frank Bartleman, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: As It Was in the Beginning, in Witness to Pentecost: The Life of Frank Bartleman, ed. Donald W. Dayton, (New York, NY: Garland, 1985), 54.

[10] Matthew 28:16-20

[11] Matthew 22:36-40

The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement: Book Review

Sweeney-American-Evangelical-Story-cover-195x300

        The American Evangelical Story examines the role American evangelicalism played in the scope of evangelical history and demonstrates how evangelicals have continued to change the world. Douglas A. Sweeney, professor of church history and chair of the department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School[1] offers this work as an introduction to evangelicalism for Christians interested in the historical roots of evangelicalism’s recent, massive growth. Sweeney first, “provides a summary of recent debates concerning the scope of evangelicalism, he then tells the story of its birth in the transatlantic Great Awakening, and its development in the United States through many cultural changes and challenges. [Lastly, he] accounts for the broad range of individuals, institutions, issues, and doctrines that have made us who we are.”[2]

Brief Summary

       Sweeney sets the tone for the reader, by offering a prayer to demonstrate his underlining purpose: “I pray that the burden of this book – to refresh our shared, historical memory – may help us to regain our spiritual bearings. And I trust that a fresh appropriation of our common heritage, though surely limited by our own historical blinders, can be used by God to bless the church for many years to come.”[3] Sweeney begins by explaining evangelicals are gospel people, but quickly demonstrates the difficulty in defining evangelicalism, claiming there is no clear consensus among scholars. Sweeney then shows, “at the center of the movement lies a firm commitment to the good news (euangelion) that ‘a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law’[4] [demonstrating] evangelicals’ doctrine clung to the gospel message as spelled out in the Bible (sola Scriptura).”[5] Other defining convictions include: the majesty of Jesus Christ, the lordship of the Holy Spirit, the need for personal conversion, the priority of evangelism, and the importance of the Christian community for spiritual nourishment, fellowship, and growth.[6] Sweeney also connects the emergence of evangelicalism to the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century, crediting missions and evangelism as the catalysts. Sweeney concludes: “Evangelicals comprise a movement that is rooted in classical Christian orthodoxy, shaped by a largely Protestant understanding of the gospel, and distinguished from other such movements by an eighteenth century twist – the impact of the Great Awakening.”[7] This renewal movement forever changed the course of history of Protestantism in North America and the rest of the world.

Critical Interaction

       It is obvious Sweeney comes from an evangelical heritage he is proud of.[8] His narrative style, his attention to chronological detail, and his personal insights provide the reader with an unbiased view of history. Leading up to the Great Awakening, Sweeney correctly shows the conflict, which existed between Catholics, and Protestants and how the Reformation led to the Transatlantic Great Awakening pioneered by John Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement, George Whitfield, who actually convinced John Wesley to take up field preaching,[9] and Jonathan Edwards, who helped Calvinists come to terms on predestination and election. This era marked the first time Protestants worked together to spread the gospel internationally. Sweeney makes it clear the goals of this movement were made with the best intentions, but he also demonstrates when human nature is involved; there will always be division. “No sooner did the Great Awakening hit America’s shores than it led to some major realignments and rivals.”[10]

       Sweeney explains, “Despite the gains of the Great Awakening, by the end of the eighteenth century, many evangelical leaders had grown concerned about the spiritual life on the new United States,”[11] giving rise to the Second Great Awakening. This era shows immense diversity as some revivals split and new ones were formed. Sweeney illustrates, “the first major theater was New England, where Edwardsian evangelists prevailed, and the second stretched along the Erie Canal in Upstate New York, dominated by Presbyterians and Congregationalists, and the third was Cumberland River Valley, led by the Armenian Methodists.”[12] Sweeney highlights, “the best known event in this third theater was the Cane Ridge Revival (1801), often called ‘America’s Pentecost’ for the amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit there.”[13] Charles Finney is portrayed as the most important leader of the revivals in New York as he had immense influence teaching, “religion is the work of man and that revival is not a miracle, but the result of the right use of appropriate means. As a supernaturalist, he acknowledged that neither revival nor conversion ever occurs without the help of the Holy Spirit, but as an experienced revivalist, he claimed these things do not occur without human effort either.”[14] The second Great Awakening seemed to be more about man than about God, as it emphasized the role of a sinner needing to choose to repent. Regardless, it still led to more conversions, and it also formed more institutions, which helped the spread of the gospel. Overall, Sweeney accomplishes a comprehensive overview of evangelical missions, by detailing even the racial prejudice, which was rampant, and the birth of the Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement. Racism remains a sore spot in the history of the church and “while evangelicals did not invent the sins of racism… millions of white evangelicals have participated in or sanctioned one or more of these things, leading to four million slaves in America by 1860… and evangelicals are still untangling themselves from this sordid legacy.”[15] A. Derwin illustrates, “less than five percent of evangelical churches are multi-ethnic… [making the] evangelical church one of the most segregated people in America on Sunday morning. The gross smell of racism still lingers in our churches like a bad odor that will not dissipate.”[16]  Sweeney rightly emphasizes, “the importance of never forgetting the utter enormity of this evil or the extent to which evangelicals condoned it.”[17] The lines of color must be crossed and perhaps one of the best examples is the Azusa Street Revival. This Pentecostalism was interracial and as Frank Bartleman noted, “The ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood.”[18] Paige Patterson best sums up the viewpoint of evangelicals, “If God has spoken, then one must heed what He says. For evangelical believers, the authority of the Bible must remain unassailable and un-debatable. We must applaud those who make other kinds of telling arguments against racism and join the chorus in at least a thirty-fold “Amen.” But, the time has come for evangelicals to bring the mother load, if you will forgive the pun. If we believe the Book, let us appeal to its lucid position on race and say to all of the tribes of the earth, “Eve is the mother of all living.” That, in effect, settles the issue!”[19]

Conclusion

       Sweeney makes a strong case, “the church needs evangelicals, evangelicalism functions as a renewal movement within the larger, universal church, and evangelicalism is not enough.”[20] Sweeney provides a well-balanced and clear history of American evangelicalism, while also demonstrating the major shift, which is currently taking place. No more is America or Europe the front-runners in evangelicalism; instead the shift is in Africa and Asia. While America and Europe used to be the nations sending missionaries to these countries, now those countries are sending missionaries to America and Europe. The future of evangelicalism rests on solely on whether denominations and ministry leaders can set aside minor differences and unify one another by embracing the Great Commission[21] and the Great Commandment.[22] The church is made up of many parts, and when those parts are working together, God will do mighty things as the world will come to know the love of Christ.

The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement. By Douglas A. Sweeney. Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2005, 208 pp. $22.00 (Paperback).

Bibliography

Baker Publishing Group Website, http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/authors/douglas-a-sweeney/344 (accessed August 11, 2016).

Bartleman, Frank. How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: As It Was in the Beginning, in Witness to Pentecost: The Life of Frank Bartleman. Ed. Donald W. Dayton. New York, NY: Garland, 1985.

Derwin, A. “The Emergence Of The Emerging Church,” Christian Apologetics Journal 07, no. 1 (Spring), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 35.

Patterson, Paige. “The SBJT Forum: Racism, Scripture, and History.” – Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 08, no. 2 (Summer), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 82.

Sweeney, Douglas A. The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2005.


[1] Baker Publishing Group Website, http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/authors/douglas-a-sweeney/344 (accessed August 11, 2016).

[2] Douglas A. Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2005), 10.

[3]  Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 185.

[4] Romans 3:28

[5] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 25.

[6] Ibid., 18.

[7] Ibid., 23-24.

[8] Ibid., 5.

[9] Ibid., 41.

[10] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 55.

[11] Ibid., 66.

[12] Ibid., 66-69.

[13] Ibid., 70.

[14] Ibid., 68.

[15] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 108.

[16] A. Derwin, “The Emergence Of The Emerging Church,” Christian Apologetics Journal 07, no. 1 (Spring), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 35.

[17] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 108.

[18] Frank Bartleman, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: As It Was in the Beginning, in Witness to Pentecost: The Life of Frank Bartleman, ed. Donald W. Dayton, (New York, NY: Garland, 1985), 54.

[19] Paige Patterson, “The SBJT Forum: Racism, Scripture, and History,” – Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 08, no. 2 (Summer), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 82.

[20] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 184.

[21] Matthew 28:16-20

[22] Matthew 22:36-40

The Emotionally Healthy Church

The Emotionally Healthy Church

          Peter Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, which is a large, multiracial church with more than seventy-three countries represented. After serving as the senior pastor for twenty-six years, Scazzero now serves as a teaching pastor with a primary focus on a groundbreaking ministry that equips churches in deep, beneath-the-surface spiritual formation, and integrates emotional health with contemplative spirituality.[1] Scazzero takes real life experiences from both his own personal life and those from New Life Fellowship members, no matter how painful, and uses them to take the reader on a liberating journey of freedom found through emotional and spiritual healing. During a crisis of faith, Scazzero came to realize, “The sad reality is that too many people in our churches are fixated at a stage of spiritual immaturity that current models of discipleship have not addressed, [exposing] the link between emotional health and spiritual maturity, [which] is a large unexplored area of discipleship.”[2] This is a central problem because there is also a direct correlation between the overall health of a church and that of its leadership.[3] In addition, Scazzero demonstrates, “The starting point for change in any nation, church, or ministry has always been with the leader first.”[4] Scazzero then found people could not be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature, especially when conflict was involved. This profound realization came after Scazzero’s wife Geri said, “I quit” to New Life, but after a brief sabbatical and counseling, God restored and equipped the Scazzero’s marriage, to bring about real change in the culture at New Life, and now countless others have been impacted. Through this restoration process, Scazzero discovered the degree to which people live in truth is also the degree to which people are truly free.

            Scazzero breaks his strategy of discipleship into four parts: (1) discipleship’s missing link, which focuses on leaders initiating the change; (2) biblical basis for a new paradigm of discipleship, which shows the relationship between emotional health and spiritual maturity; (3) seven principles of an emotionally healthy church, which takes inventory of where the church finds herself and forces a hard internal look, by pulling back the multiple layers to uncover areas for potential growth; and (4) where do we go from here? This last part demonstrates, “In the same way, our growth into Christlikeness requires we get rid of our old, hard, protective shells and allow God to take us to a new place in him, [it also] calls for a commitment to do the hard work – one day at a time,[5] so Scazzero’s model shows love and listening as a core components.

       One of the most compelling areas of Scazzero’s work involves a new paradigm shift in the discipleship process. What made this section so valuable was its application to both the individual and the corporate setting. When New Life began to implement what Scazzero uncovered, the church moved from being “human doings to human beings, [but this process started first with] Scazzero’s understanding of what it meant to minister out of who you are, not what you do.”[6] The concentric circles of applying emotional health[7] properly demonstrate the necessity for change to occur from the top down in terms of leadership and influence. In a church setting, this would start with the senior pastor, then his or her family and spouse, staff and interns, elders and board, actively serving leaders, leaders in development, rest of the congregation, and the wider community influenced by the church.

       Scazzero then demonstrates the necessity of understanding mankind is created in the image of God, which encompasses much more than merely the spiritual dimension; it also includes the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual dimensions. Scazzero illustrates by “Denying any aspect of what it means to be a fully human person made in the image of God carries with it catastrophic, long-term consequences – in our relationship with God, with others, and with ourselves. Unhealthy developments are inevitable when we fail to understand ourselves as whole people, made in the image of our Creator God.”[8] Regarding this writer’s current emotional and spiritual health, there will always be areas to improve, as one of the best indicators of a good leader is being teachable and open to the guiding of the Spirit. However, being engrossed in fulltime ministry while also being a fulltime student has created a constant battle for time and priorities. The inventory and assessment of spiritual and emotional maturity illuminates strengths and areas for improvement, while also making sure the priorities in life are reflected in where time, talents, and treasures are spent. Scazzero’s principles can then be applied in the vision and mission of the church and for individuals, by affirming in all matters, God comes first. Scazzero also does a brilliant job demonstrating when people operate out of hurt or an underdeveloped character, he or she will not allow people to get close. Ultimately, past hurt leaves deep wounds, making it difficult to trust people. Scazzero concludes by showing how leadership is lonely, making it vital to surround oneself with like-minded individuals because another important part of being healthy is to surround oneself with healthy people. Unfortunately, this is not easy at churches, since the church is a place for broken and hurt people to come in order to find wholeness and restoration. As a result, Scazzero also lists self-care and forgiveness as challenges of anyone who serves, since forgiveness in not a quick process.[9]

Bibliography

New Life Fellowship Website, http://newlifefellowship.org/about-us/about-new-life/our-staff/  (accessed August 9, 2016).

Scazzero, Peter. The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives, Updated and Expanded Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.


[1] New Life Fellowship Website, http://newlifefellowship.org/about-us/about-new-life/our-staff/ (accessed August 9, 2016).

[2] Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives, Updated and Expanded Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 17-19.

[3] Ibid., 20.

[4] Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church, 36.

[5] Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church, 217.

[6] Ibid., 34.

[7] Ibid., 35.

[8] Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church, 54 & 164.

[9] Ibid., 151.

Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth Book Review

Move_1000 Churches

            Greg L. Hawkins is executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. For twenty years, he has assisted senior pastor Bill Hybels in providing strategic leadership and his prior management experience came as a consultant for McKinsey & Company. Hawkins received his undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University and an MBA from Stanford University. In 2011 he became co-author of Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, which combines sound research with practical application on ways to improve the spiritual growth in churches. Cally Parkinson, the other co-author of Move… serves as the brand manager for REVEAL, an initiative within Willow Creek Association who utilizes research tools and discoveries to help churches better understand spiritual growth in the multiplicity of congregations. Following a twenty-five-year career with Allstate Insurance, she has also served as the director of communications at Willow Creek Community Church. Her diverse background and skills were formulated at DePauw University, where she received her bachelor’s degree and the American Graduate School of International Management, where she earned her master’s degree.[1]

            Facts on their own can be overwhelming, so what Hawkins and Parkinson set out to do was provide a model for any church, no matter the size, denomination, or location to become effective in producing spiritual growth within the congregation. After surveying one-thousand churches, Hawkins and Parkinson found that no matter the size, denomination, budget, or geography, the churches that were highly effective excelled in the following four best practices: (1) Getting people moving; (2) Embedding the Bible; (3) Creating ownership; and (4) Pastoring the community. This discovery was profound because for centuries, church leaders have known the primary goal of disciples is to produce more disciples, but the how has alluded many who have tried. Hawkins and Parkinson illustrate, “Jesus wants us to love God and love others, and it is pretty straightforward, making the what the easy part of church leadership… However, each new generation of Christian leaders has struggled to get a handle on the how: How do we foster the transformation of our people into disciples of Christ and how do we extend His love to others?”[2] Every church has a limited amount of resources, so it only makes sense to use those commodities in areas that provide the best return on investment. Move… provides the answers to these questions by utilizing thorough research, time-tested-principles, and by then providing sound practices to move people along the path to being more Christ-centered. There should be a deep desire in every believer to become more Christ-like and this book provides twenty-five high impact catalysts, which promote spiritual growth in the believer. In addition to the catalysts, there are numerous strategies, insights, models, and patterns to help any church become effective in producing spiritual growth within the body. The book is nicely divided into three parts focusing on: (1) The Spiritual Continuum: moving people from exploring Christ, to growing in Christ; (2) Spiritual Movement: identifying the spiritual catalysts, needed in the evolution of becoming Christ-centered, while also illustrating potential barriers to spiritual growth; and (3) Spiritual Leadership: defining best practices, analyzing spiritual vitality, and preparing leaders to get the body of Christ moving and doing what God has called them to do.

Critique

            Reading this work was very similar to reading something by George Barna, but Hawkins and Parkinson go a few steps further, by providing real-life-application and strategies to employ in order to bring about spiritual growth in any church. These premises are bold, but the statistics presented are frightening for any western church. To think, “The longer someone attends church, the less likely they are to become Christ-followers”[3] is terrifying. Hawkin’s and Parkinson’s research actually found, “people who have attended church for more than five years are far more likely to become spiritually stalled or content with their spiritual growth.”[4] This only shows the importance of engaging people in ministry as soon as possible because the longer an individual is classified in the getting to know Christ stage, the less likely he or she will feel compelled to serve in ministry. This is enlightening, especially since believers find so much about themselves and God through serving in some form of ministry or outreach. Hawkins and Parkinson have termed a church, which is only exploring Christ as being stalled in the rust belt. This is because the majority of the congregation is stuck on the spiritual fringe, investigating, but undecided about the claims of Christianity, attending, but not involved in church, and possibly a long-tenured churchgoer.[5] This is spot on and evident in all generations of church attenders, as the Abrahams feel any dues have already paid: monetarily or service oriented, the Isaacs are too busy with life to commit any more time to the church, and the Jacobs have a sense of entitlement, where everything should just be provided. All of these warped perceptions are wrong and indicate just how many churches are still stuck in the first stage of exploring Christ. Once someone truly begins to know Christ, the next logical step is to grow in Christ, which represents the largest segment of people surveyed at thirty-eight percent.[6] Hawkins and Parkinson provide valuable information as to exactly what this largest segment is looking for from the church: (1) Help in developing a personal relationship with Christ, (2) Help in understanding the Bible in greater depth, (3) Church leaders who model and consistently reinforce how to grow spiritually, (4) Compelling worship experiences, and (5) Challenge to grow and take next steps.[7] A problem many churches make is babying new believers, instead of issuing challenges and showing them how to find God and answers to life’s questions in Scripture. It is also crucial for church-attenders to see the leadership embodying Christ-like character in word and deed. Those considered to be growing in Christ are: on board with core beliefs, are comfortable with spiritual practices, and are poised for great spiritual advances and impact.[8] As the largest segment, Hawkins and Parkinson do a good job illustrating how to move this group closer to Christ, by teaching them how to love God and others.[9] Hawkins and Parkinson explain this is so crucial because those who are close to Christ engage in a deeper level of personal spiritual practices.[10] The next stage of evolution involves the, “Christ-centered believer emerging from a battle between two sets of values: the secular values that define personal identity, happiness, security, and success for much of the world, and the spiritual values of selfless love and dedication to others that characterize a life centered on Jesus.”[11]

Application

            Hawkins and Parkinson do a wonderful job explaining the “what and how” behind ministry, by pointing out the importance of each member taking ownership. This principle is true in many business models, as those who are involved during the inception of something, or feel a sense of being needed will have a much stronger commitment to see it succeed. It also follows the 80/20 principle, where twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work. Sadly, this is also the case with giving in the church. For these reasons, this is an area this writer will be focusing on. If twenty percent of the people are doing all the work, this eventually leads to burnout. Hawkins and Parkinson suggest three ways to create ownership are: (1) To empower people to be the church, (2) To equip people to succeed, and (3) To hold people accountable.[12]

            Another area of importance is evangelism outside the four walls of the church. Terry Inman once made the comment, “I do not pastor a church; I pastor a community.” Hawkins and Parkinson use this illustration to explain the flocks pastors are called to shepherd over are actually all the people in the local community. For many churches, this is a huge paradigm shift, but for this writer’s church, this is an area that has already been targeted. Hawkins and Parkinson found, “best practice churches pastor their local communities by bringing the same inspirational energy… to outreach strategies and initiatives that they bring to designing and executing weekend services.” Hawkins and Parkinson break this strategy down into three strategies: (1) Set a high bar for serving the church and the community. Often the senior pastor will set the tone for this model; (2) Build a bridge into your local community. This will develop strong and long-term relationships, which will also help address any immediate community needs; and (3) Make serving a platform for the gospel. Hawkin’s and Parkinson’s research shows there is a natural affinity between evangelizing and serving those who are struggling and broken.[13] Love and compassion are the best motivators for evangelism and by meeting the most basic needs of the community; the outreach initiative will poise the church to not only gain new people, but also advance the gospel at the same time. This book is a great resource for any church or individual looking to grow spiritually. In life, if something is not living, then it is dying and for many churches, they have essentially become stagnant cesspools, but by applying these principles and models, churches will experience real growth, as the result of the development of the congregations’ spiritual formation and desire to be more Christ-like.

Bibliography

Hawkins, Greg L. and Cally Parkinson. Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

 


[1] Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 6.

[2] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 12.

[3] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 37.

[4] Ibid., 38.

[5] Ibid., 44.

[6] Ibid., 50.

[7] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 55.

[8] Ibid., 61.

[9] Ibid., 75-77.

[10] Ibid., 75.

[11] Ibid., 84.

[12] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 231.

[13] Ibid., 239-240.

Hawkins, Greg L. and Cally Parkinson. Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, 286 pp. $21.99 (Hardcover).