Alan Noble is the managing editor and co-founder of Christ and Pop Culture and is an assistant professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University.
Noble recently wrote a thought provoking article on Christians and the public square for The Atlantic titled Is Evangelical Morality Still Acceptable in America?
Is evangelical Christian morality still viable in American public life?
…There is a fear that in an increasingly secularized society, there will be less tolerance for people who wish to act upon their deeply held religious beliefs, except in narrowly defined, privatized spaces. This is a fundamentally American concern: Will I have the right to serve God as I believe I am obligated to?
Often, Christian claims to religious liberty are framed as homophobia and misogyny, rather than disagreement grounded in morality.
Often, the Christian defense of what they believe is their religious liberty is framed as fundamental hatefulness, homophobia, and misogyny, rather than disagreement grounded in morality. Much to the shame of the faith, a few who claim to be Christian really are motivated by hate. Those who disagree with them see little point in engaging with them on these issues, which is understandable, but it’s unfair and counterproductive to extend that attitude to all evangelical Christians. If the evangelical worldview is deemed invalid in the public sphere, then the public sphere loses the value of being public. American discourse will be marked by paranoid conformity, rather than principled and earnest disagreement. And our ability to prophetically speak to one another and to our nation’s troubles will be restrained.
I encourage you to read the whole thing.
Russell Moore, the president of the The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, explains the significance of God’s kingship and the foundational nature of God’s Kingdom to all of Christianity. This video is from Ministry Grid, a video based leadership development platform for the church.
This is the first message in a series on the book of Jonah that Philip Nation and I are preaching at The Fellowship in Nashville, TN. The sermon starts at around 23:30 (and ends at 54:40…Boom! Almost 30 minutes on the dot.)
Patriotism is a good thing. As C.S. Lewis once put it, patriotism is the natural emotional connection we have with place. We’re wired to ache for this notion of home. However, as Christians we understand that this world is not our home. As American Christians, we also understand that the USA is not our promised land. We are settlers, but we are only passing through.
Many younger evangelicals have wrestled with the issue of patriotism theologically. So, here are a few blog posts that explore the relationship between patriotism and Christian theology.
Older Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Israel. Younger Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Babylon. If this statement is true (and I admit it is a generalization), then it may help explain why many millennial church leaders feel a sense of angst regarding patriotic services in the church. As we witness the quickly shifting tides of morality in the United States, evangelicals who feel embattled in the cultural maelstrom are less likely to see the U.S. as the de facto “good guy” in all we do. The culture shift makes patriotic celebrations in church a sensitive issue.
Thinking Theologically About Patriotism by Kevin DeYoung.
In some parts of the church, every hint of patriotism makes you a jingoistic idolater. You are allowed to love every country except your own. But in other parts of the church, true religion blends too comfortably into civil religion. You are allowed to worship in our services as long as you love America as much as we do. I don’t claim to have arrived at the golden mean, but I imagine many churches could stand to think more carefully about their theology of God and country.
Christians are, in a sense, dual citizens– of the Kingdom and of the nation where they live. I live in a country that is not without fault, but I am proud to be a citizen of that nation. I teach my children to be proud of their nation– not unaware of its challenges– and patriotic citizens. Yet, I think that Christians in all those places need to be careful about mixing their faith and worship with their patriotism and nationalism.
Reconsider God and Country Services by Chris Martin
Millennials have a general lack of interest in religious matters and are somewhat apathetic when it comes to patriotism. How might these facts affect how we plan our God and Country services? I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that singing God Bless America and peddling politics from the pulpit this Sunday may not be a draw for young people outside your church who do not know Jesus or share the same views as you…Don’t burn bridges on the altar of political partisanship. Don’t build a wall around the gospel with bricks fashioned by your political passion.
Should Churches Display The American Flag? by Douglas Wilson, Lisa Velthouse, and Russell D. Moore.
I tend to sympathize with Doug Wilson on this one. However, Russell Moore makes a compelling case. Moore writes:
Removing a flag doesn’t remove the tendency to idolatry or triumphalism; it just leaves such things unaddressed and untroubled. If a congregation already has a flag in the sanctuary, the first step might be for the pastor to use it as an object lesson in a right-ordered patriotism.
The flag can prompt the church to pray for and honor leaders. The flag can prompt us to remember that national identity is important but transitory. There will come a day when Old Glory yields to an older glory, when the new republic succumbs to a new creation. Until then, let’s reorder all our affections, including our flag-waving. But let’s do so maintaining the paradoxical tension of “resident aliens.” There is no need to play “Rapture the Flag.”
Photo credit: photopin
In this video, Sally Lloyd-Jones discusses parenting children into the Christian worldview story.
Rick Segal of Bethlehem College and Seminary recently wrote a helpful article on evangelism and spending time with unbelievers titled Are You Too Christian for Non-Christians?. Ask yourself, how much time do you spend with unbelieving individuals? What is the quality of your social relationships with unbelievers? Segal offers seven disciplines to strengthen your evangelistic focus in everyday life.
1. Pray for the unbelievers in your life by name.
Margaret Thatcher once famously said, “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families…” Her point being that we must regard each other at human scale, not as mere components of larger social institutions. The same can be said of the way we use the term “the lost.” Of course our hearts grieve for the millions who do not know Jesus, but we don’t know the millions, personally. Most of us do know personally at least dozens, some of us hundreds, and rather than lump these precious individuals into one big prayer cohort, we could begin to take their given names before the Lord in prayer. Start writing their names down and praying over them at least once a week.
2. Be intentional in pursuing relationships and scheduling time with unbelievers.
If you don’t make engagement with unbelieving people a priority, your life will gravitate automatically toward the pleasures and comforts of the church community cul de sac. Identify two people outside of your Christian circle with whom you think you would enjoy spending more time. Look for two more who appear to need someone to come alongside of them as they struggle with burdens in their lives. Target one other with whom you seem to have the least in common, but enough of a relationship that you could see it becoming, with a little work, a friendship. You needn’t feel that you to need to sacrifice any of your principles or values to love someone else. It’s what we’re commanded to do. Love God. Love our neighbors.
3. Don’t withdraw from unbelieving family members. Lean in.
Family members are people with whom, like it or not, you are already in relationship. You already love them, and they already love you, despite theological differences. Don’t make them a project, just love them as members of your family. Be sincerely interested in what they’re interested in, even if you find it hard to be interested. Know their struggles. Encourage them. Affirm them. Don’t be estranged. Lean in and never give up on any of them. Above all else, pray for them.
4. Love your neighbors.
Know your neighbors. Help your neighbors. Enjoy your neighbors. Be the epoxy that glues your neighbors into a neighborhood. Practice hospitality. Make your home a place that your neighbors associate with their love for each other.
5. Appreciate your workplace as the best place.
For most Christians, the workplace is the place where we will spend the most time with unbelieving people. Work requires us to collaborate with others to see it to completion. Relationships in the workplace are sometimes even easier to develop than with family members. You share more time and, in time, more in common. Don’t allow your Christianity to be a wedge that separates you from co-workers. You needn’t compromise your values, nor engage in any unbiblical activities to secure a co-worker’s esteem or affection, but you do need to take an active interest in your coworkers as fellow human beings, not just the other spokes in a wheel you happen to share. Appreciate that people in the workplace are not the means of getting your work done, they are the objects of your work as an ambassador for Christ.
6. Harvest relationships from your children’s activities.
Children are now involved in lots of activities, year round. If you have several children, the breadth of your relationship universe is substantial across the expanse of all the other coaches, parents and teammates. So, go deep. Work these crowds. Befriend people in these communities. Do things with them. Bring them together in your home with family members, co-workers and neighbors. A word of warning: don’t permit all of your kids’ activities to take place in Christian-only programs.
7. Take up a new hobby, especially one shared in groups.
Diversions from responsibilities can be personally renewing and restorative, and great venues for evangelism. Find something fun or interesting to do or learn in which you are not fulfilling a specific responsibility or obligation to anyone — just taking your mind off of things for awhile. But, find something that requires you to do it with other people. Here you’ll likely meet people of all different walks, the bond being the shared interest in the hobby. It will help to find something in which someone else, perhaps an unbeliever, will have to be invested in you to help you along. This can be the leaven of really great relationships.
The truth is the product of this hypothetical formula is not a score, it is joy. There are few greater joys in life than sharing the gospel with another person, even fewer greater joys than knowing you have been used as means, immediately or eventually, in another’s conversion in Christ. Yes, we rejoice in corporate worship, in Christian fellowship, and in private devotion, and also in the essential work of sharing Christ with those who do not yet know him.
Read the whole thing here.
Yesterday Faith Street published an article by Russell Moore titled “Could the Persecuted Church Rescue American Christianity?” Here is an excerpt.
We have grown accustomed to an American civil religion, nominally Christian, where in many places it does someone social good to join a church. To say “I’m not a Christian” has been in those places the equivalent of saying “I’m not a good person.” This has inflated membership rolls, yes, but it has done so at the expense of what Jesus calls the gospel: the call to carry a cross.
Moreover, this nominal Christianity has emphasized the “values” and “meaning” aspects of Christianity while often downplaying the “strangeness” of Christianity, namely the conviction that a previously dead man is alive and returning to judge the living and the dead.
This Bible Belt experiment will not long survive the secularizing of American culture, where increasingly even the “values” seem strange to the culture. The church will survive, and, I believe, flourish — but it will mean the stripping away of the almost-gospels we’ve grown accustomed to.
When we encounter those persecuted around the world, we see a glimpse of what Jesus has called all of us to. We see the sort of faith that isn’t a means to an end. We see the sort of faith that joins the global Body of Christ, across time and space, in the confession of a different sort of reign. We see a gospel that isn’t the American Dream with heaven at the end.
Read the whole thing. It is worth your time.