Three ways to live

Which is your way?

Largest Christian congregation on Earth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 10:00 pm on Sunday, November 11, 2007

When I think of a mega church, numbers like 20,000-50,000 people come to mind. Yet, it came as a big surprise to me that the largest Christian congregation on Earth, Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea, has 830,000 members! One in twenty residents in Seoul is a member! My mind has difficulty comprehending what it takes to run such a huge body of believers.

But the answer is simple – small groups (or cell groups). These have basically become the modern version of house churches that existed in the early times of Christianity. No matter how large the church becomes, we are not capable of handling more than 20-30 relationships at a time. I can imagine that in churches like Yoido Full Gospel, small groups become primary place for learning and discipleship, as not every member can make it to Sunday service and at best can only view it on TV.

Nick Vujicic on suffering

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 10:05 pm on Thursday, November 8, 2007

One of my readers keeps feeding me with inspirational videos, here is another one about Nick Vujicic, the man without limbs.

In this interview, Nick makes several excellent points:

  • If he can learn to trust God with his circumstances, you can learn to trust God with yours. God’s grace is sufficient
  • We can’t and shouldn’t compare sufferings, we all “bear” our own crosses.
  • Nick prayed to God to get his limbs back. What a great miracle it would be if he would get arms and legs right in front of everybody, how many people would believe! Yet, Nick stands in front of everybody as he is as a miracle of God, to prove to everybody a pure example of God’s grace, love, and perfection

BibleGateway

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 9:46 pm on Thursday, November 8, 2007

I have just come across BibleGateway widget on one of the blogs I am reading and decided to include it on my blog also. Even though I usually try to make hyperlinks from scripture references to BibleGateway directly inside my blog posts, if you do encounter and untagged reference, just copy and paste it in the box on the right panel.

More on spiritual gifts

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 8:23 pm on Wednesday, November 7, 2007

In follow-up to our last bible study on 1 Corinthians 14, here is a helpful article on the same topic from Mars Hill church, Seattle. Here are some of the highlights I found especially helpful:

First, here is how they classify available opinions:

Cessationist Charismatic Charismaniac Pentecostal
Supernatural gifts (e.g., tongues and prophecy) functioned only in the early church and are not to be practiced today. Supernatural gifts are given to every generation and should be practiced according to the limits of Scripture. Supernatural gifts are given to every generation. Contemporary revelations are, in effect, equal to Scripture. Essentially the same as the charismatic position, but only Christians who speak in tongues have the Holy Spirit.
  • The spiritual gifts differ from natural talents (e.g., musical ability, creativity, athletic prowess, computer skills) in that one is given at new birth and the other is given at birth.
  • We must be open to serving outside our area of gifting.
  • Every gift must be cultivated so that we are most effective in our ministry service.
  • Whatever someone’s gift, the purpose of the gift is to build up and benefit the entire church, not just edify the individual using the gift.
  • Spiritual gifts are given by God’s choice; we cannot choose our gift. So, anyone who is unhappy about how God has designed them is, in effect, complaining about God not giving them the gift they wanted.

1 Corinthians 14 – summary of study

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 4:25 am on Monday, November 5, 2007

1 Corinthians 14 (together with 2 preceding chapters) has been a point of major debate on existence of miraculous gifts, especially prophecy and tongues. This issue has divided the church for many generations and there is no clear resolution in sight.

1) First of all, we must make it clear that existence of prophecy and tongues is not the main point of chapter 14. The problem was that the Corinthians were not exercising their gifts in love (chapter 13), looking down on some gifts and envying others (Chapter 12). So, the chapter 14 is best viewed as a case study on how these issues can be resolved, taking prophecy and tongues as an example. Paul could have compared other gifts, like teaching and evangelism, or mercy and encouragement, etc. He has probably chosen prophecy and tongues as the ones most abused in the Corinthian church

2) What is Paul’s answer to proper gift use?

  • Think how it can edify the church
  • Think how it can edify non-believers who happen to stop by your church service
  • Everything should be done in orderly fashion

Yet chapter 14 also provides the most comprehensive overview of miraculous gifts in the whole of New Testament and it would be a mistake not to use it to learn more about these gifts. The chapter does seem to provide support for pentecostal/charismatic/third wave view that the miraculous gifts should continue, if read literally. After all, doesn’t Paul say in verse 39, “Be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues”. So how can there be still a debate on this issue, if it’s a direct command from Paul?

Well, there could be several reasons for believing the miraculous gifts have ceased.

  • We should not straightforwardly assume that what Paul said to Corinthians should apply to us. After all, Paul also commands women to wear headscarves and be silent in the church, a command very few churches now obey. What was good for church then might not be good now, and gifts exits for common good.
  • All Christians believe the canon to be closed, but prophecy (if true) can potentially provide new revelation not found in the bible.
  • The Old Testament history suggests periods of miraculous activity followed by periods of silence from God. So we should not assume that even if miraculous gifts exist, we should surely find them in the church now

Yet, despite all these reasons, there is no 100% proof that the supernatural gifts have ceased and there is no proof they should continue in full force.

So, what shall we do in the presence of such uncertainty? I hope the following observations might help:

1) God did miracles, does miracles and will do miracles. The debate is not about whether God can do miracles, but whether there are people who can exercise supernatural gifts consistently and better than others.
2) Each side of the debate must recognize the dangers of their own positions. Churches that believe that the gifts have ceased may make people feel that God does not care for them personally. They may put too much emphasis on other gifts, especially gift of teaching, making less educated members feel inferior. On the other hand, churches practicing prophecy and tongues run into danger of making people who don’t have these gifts fell inferior. Also, since it is difficult to objectively evaluate the miraculous gifts (unlike say the gift of teaching), there is a danger of faking or imagining it, where people start to treat even mundane things in life as miraculous (like miraculously finding a carpark spot).
3) One real danger with pentecostal/charismatic churches is not that they believe in miraculous gifts but that they often provide a fertile ground for many modern day heresies, like prosperity doctrine (God wants you to be rich) or word of faith doctrine (if you pray with true faith God must do what you pray for). These are half-truths and have been deceiving generations of Christians. The reason why these appear most often in the charismatic setting is because of less emphasis on getting revelation from the Bible and more on getting it through prophecy and tongues. This leads to less rigor in studying the Bible and thus potentially deriving wrong lessons from it.

Two gospel presentations

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 10:08 pm on Thursday, November 1, 2007

How do you explain the gospel in 5min? One popular gospel presentation is Australian “Two ways to live“. I, obviously, prefer “Three ways to live” presentation, which makes further distinction between religion and the gospel. Both of these, and many other gospel presentations (until recently) made an emphasis on man’s sin, judgment and his only way to salvation by Jesus’ sacrifice. However, these kinds of presentation have become increasingly more difficult to “sell”. After all, who would want to hear about judgment, about the need for sacrifice. Many people do not completely understand what they have done wrong and why they should be “saved” or forgiven.

So it’s not surprising that alternative gospel presentations have been appearing that avoid these difficult issues. Instead, they focus on the Bible’s big picture “Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration”, as Tim Keller once put it. Here is an example:

According to “Stand to Reason” blog, InterVarsity campus ministries are already using it on college campuses. Note that the presentation makes an emphasis on community problems rather than on individual sin. Jesus is a way that helps us solve the world’s problem rather than a way for your individual salvation.

Many would find fault with such a presentation, blaming it for hiding the more important aspects of the gospel (sin, judgment, hell). I, personally, see this as a part of contextualization development that suggests we should avoid presenting the whole truth to non-believers because a) they might not be interested, b) might not understand and hence give up. Instead, the contextualization movement suggests intentionally presenting a one-sided part of the gospel that is relevant to the person, and leaving the other parts for later time (when the person is ready).

So it is with this gospel presentation. Many people nowadays do not think that there is anything wrong with them, but almost everybody agree that there is something wrong with the whole world (poverty, global warming, wars, etc.). Hence such people are more likely to pay attention to the gospel presentation that addresses these global issues. Is this selling out to the culture? No, if done properly, by which I mean the absolute necessity of presenting the other sides of the gospel at a later time. Failing to do that leads to over-contexualization and you can see example of this in many “emergent” churches that often narrow Christianity to Earth improvement program.

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