TIME WELL SPENT?

AIRPLANE

An interesting brochure caught my attention on a recent Delta airlines flight. It’s message was “Time On Board, Time Well Spent: make the most of your flight today with WI-FI and, inspiring and free streaming entertainment.”  It proclaimed seventy-five movies, one hundred and fifty TV shows, HBO, TED Talks and more, accessible by laptop, tablet, smart phone, and seatback screen all with no charge.  Amazing!

If people are not busy taking advantage of “inspiring and free streaming entertainment,” their time is devoted to video games. Then there are the few who are actually conversing, working, or sleeping.  I assume those persons with their eyes closed are sleeping and not praying. I could be wrong. In the diversity of activity, most people seem to be glued to a screen for one reason or another.  I have to ask if it is really “time well spent” and truly “inspiring.”  I am yet to observe anyone getting off a flight looking wonderfully inspired.   Overall, the American (and Canadian) culture seems busy airplane-passengers-seats-tv-screens 2-flying-coach-commercial-flight-built-49800624 (1)passing time, but not engaging in time well spent. Should I be surprised?  We live in a post-Christian era of distractions and attractions that suck the life out of us in relatively valueless activity that mostly serve as a diversion from those things that really matter.

Then I have to ask from what is all the entertainment diverting us? What’s the attraction. What are the alternatives to not waste?  What are the things that really matter? In answering I assume I am writing to a readership of authentic, altogether Christians, not nominal, half-hearted Christians that John Wesley might call “almost Christians” or “low road Christians.” I assume that the American culture has not pilfered your awareness of God’s presence, grace, and work in your life.  I assume your habits-of-the-heart incline you to keep company with Christ more than with the latest digital invention of the entertainment industry.  I assume time well spent in flight with God (in Scripture, prayer, conversation, wholesome reading, rest, etc.) is not a lost priority.  I assume God is just waiting to share something new, fresh, and inspiring with you by the time the flight ends.  If I am wrong, then you answer the question. Is your time well spent?  Every time I end a flight, I have to ask that question.  Was my time well spent? Sometimes I need to repent over my answer and pray for forgiveness for ignoring my best friend who was present with me the whole time.  It’s likely he had something to say! If only I had been listening. . .

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THE GOSPEL ON ITS WAY . . .

“The Gospel comes to us on its way to someone else.”  Erwin Mc Manus, Missiologist

GOSPEL COMPANY WE KEEPOn a Seedbed.com podcast recently, Dr. Jeremy Steele used this quote from Erwin Mc Manus in discussing the purpose of the gospel.   It rings true and consistent with another reflection: “We become the company we keep.” When we put these two ideas together, juxtaposing them with each other, we begin to see how God works in a believer’s life.

The Gospel is God’s story running from Genesis completely through the Bible, through the Book of Revelation. It is the narrative of God’s redemptive, reconciling, work of salvation and restoration from inevitable death to the certainty of everlasting life. It is the Good News of salvation that comes to us as “the continuing work of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, through the church, to the world.”[1] The point worth underscoring is that the gospel came to us through the church, through others, through someone(s), and depending on our faithfulness as God’s agent, it goes forward to someone else. It’s been that way since Jesus began preaching, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4: 17). The Kingdom is still at hand. The message of salvation is to be passed on to others by all who receive it as gospel truth. By the grace of God, the gospel came to us.   It was passed on to us through the company we’ve kept with other Christians, and it is to be passed on to others. Our faithfulness to share the full story, including holiness, is our way of responding to God’s holy love for us. God lavishes his grace on us and waits for our response.  Pass the peace!

GOSPEL COMPANYWe become the company we keep with other Christians, and with Christ in our daily journey. He calls us to also be a presence in the lives of others who need to know the gospel message.  As it came to us, the gospel makes its way to someone else through us. The amazing thing is that God entrusts us with the message and calls us to pass it on. What a remarkable trust!

[1] John R. W. Stott, The Spirit, the Church, and the World: The Message of Acts, 1990

TAKING ON POST-CHRISTENDOM

CHURCH 2What’s happening to Christendom, at least in the Global North (including Australasia)? We now find ourselves in the “Post Christendom Era.” Recently Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary, wrote “The two most important developments in the church of our time is the movement of western civilization into post-Christendom and the equally dramatic emergence of global Christianity.” Tennent goes on to say that Christendom today “produces vast numbers of nominal Christians.” He says its what Christendom does best. People call themselves Christians because that’s the culturally comfortable or normative thing to do. They do not light up the world with new Christians including their own children because they assume the culture promotes values that are inherently Christian and can just be caught naturally. Their legacy by default is godless secularism.

This is the scenario behind the decline of mainline churches and many evangelical faith communities as well. Tennent suggests that what’s missing is robust Christian identity, transformed Christian lives, a Kingdom vision for society, and a “deep commitment to catechesis.” Without these pillars, all Christian communities and movements in the West will continue to struggle with the inevitability of post-Christendom.

SEEDBED PHOTO GARDENINGI agree with Dr. Tennent. But I also agree with J. D. Watt, the lead servant of the Seedbed* initiative. He quotes the Barna Group study on “Ten Transformational Stops” to say that we’re in trouble if we keep producing nominal Christians because we don’t ask the right questions. Rather than how do we grow the church, meaning in size, we are better to ask how do we grow people (starting with ourselves), meaning in holiness after the likeness of Christ. Just growing the church in size is to produce more nominal minimalist, so-called Christians, what John Wesley called “almost Christians,” “having the form of godliness, but lacking the power thereof.” (2 Timothy 3;5), and “low road Christians” not pursuing the high road of holiness.

We find ourselves in the West today in a post-Christendom world lacking the fire of an earlier day. It was William Booth who said, “The tendency of fire is to go out.” The church is meant to be a light on a hill, a blazing fire, not an ember surrounded by ashes.  The church is in a low gear of mediocrity reproducing tepid, weak, nominal Christians and lacking covenant and commitment, power and potential to light up the world with holiness to the glory of God. We have met the “enemy.”  It is that enormous part of the church that remains stuck short of fulfilling the Great Commission, “make disciples?”

The Church universal is not the enemy, but perhaps it is the church in the West that produces babes in Christ and abandons them to arrested development or infant mortality. We are not unlike the general who when surrounded by the enemy on three sides only responded with a command “charge.” We take on the church and post-Christendom and in the words of a friend, Andy Miller III, we shout “Forward to the fight!”  What that means I’ll explore in a future blog.

*Check out Timothy Tennent and J.T. Walt on Seedbed at Seedbed.com