Posted by Patrick Corkum on June 7, 2010
There is a word that stirs emotion and can make your blood boil, annoy the heck out of you, or make you excited. That word is evangelism. I must admit that my instinctual response to the word is not a good one. This is one of those things where you have to suppress your instinctual nature in light of what you know. The problem with the word that triggers the instinctual response in me is all of the things that are done in Christian evangelism. People have good intentions, at least I think they do. However, people have changed evangelism into sales and marketing of Christianity. I am going to present my issues first, so don’t stop and get all inflamed at my issues before reading the entire post.
Top Ten Issues with Christian Evangelism Practices
- People try to instill fear in order to convert (i.e. fire and brimstone)
- People make it completely emotional (i.e. Jesus will be your BFF)
- People make it all about “being saved” (i.e. Say a prayer and you’ll go to heaven)
- People use language that makes no sense to non-Christians (i.e. sanctification, salvation, justification, glory, trinity, grace, mercy, etc…)
- People selling places in heaven (i.e. pamphlets asking if you’re going to heaven)
- People who preach about nothing but what God hates
- People tout the powers of the Bible but don’t know what it really says
- People ask “Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?”
- Altar Calls
Okay, now calm down… take a deep breath and read my explanations. My reasons for those things being issues are primarily based upon using Jesus’ ministry as a model. However, first and foremost, it must be understood what evangelism is supposed to be about. It is supposed to be about preaching the good news. It is not about conversion or assimilation or making Christians. That stuff you just need to leave up to God. Our role is to preach the good news (and I don’t mean from a pulpit or soap box) with our words and actions, and make disciples of all nations. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
- Fear? Seriously, fear? This has many problems. First, it’s like trying to sell a boat to someone in the middle of the desert because a fairy tale said it would rain so bad that the desert would become a sea (Look at it from their perspective). Secondly, it is not the message that the Christ preached. He preached a message about love and forgiveness. If you really think about it, the thought of becoming a Christian should instill fear for multiple reasons. #1 – You will be persecuted. #2 – It means giving up control.
- The emotional factor just drives me nuts. I know what you’re going to say: “it reaches people”. I have nothing against the emotional factor, except when everything else is excluded. You cannot sell Jesus. He is not for sale. Yes, we need to be eternally grateful for what He has done for us. However, we still need to fear Him. He is still our judge, holy and completely righteous. What He requires of us is not simply thanksgiving, but a life changing faith in Him. So life changing is this faith that He describes it as being born again.
- Can we get past this concept of “being saved”? Let’s call it something like “becoming a disciple”. After all, this is what God has told us that he wants. People think that you hit this point somewhere and BAM, you’re in. I am not going to say that there is zero merit to this, but Paul talks about running the good race. Races are not points in time. However, modern evangelism focuses itself completely on putting your running shoes on. I know, you’re probably thinking “that is horrible”. It is about the long haul. We need to get the concept of “point of conversion” out of our heads because we are limiting God based upon our understanding of space and time.
- I understand this one all too well being a “computer guy”. Doctors and nurses probably also understand this. If you aren’t in the group that speaks the language, you are going to shut off whenever someone uses it. In the computer or medical world, people are just going to ask you to speak in plain English. However, in the religion world, people are going to simply tune out. This is a really hard one to do, but it must be done.
- Jesus spoke about the kingdom of heaven. He spoke about what it is like. He stirred curiosity. However, heaven is sold as some kind of mystical place that your spirit goes when you die to in order to be in complete bliss surrounded by white fluffy clouds. Somewhere the concept of new creation and resurrection has disappeared. I am not going to claim to understand it all, because I most definitely do not. What I do know, however, is that the gospel can not be simplified into the word “heaven”.
- Pamphlets are a great way to be impersonal. I wonder if Jesus passed out pamphlets with lunch when he fed the multitudes?
- Yes, God hates things. He hates sin. That being said, he is also for many things. Christians are know for what we are against instead of what we are for. It is horrible. We need to stop pointing out the needle in other people’s eyes and start looking at the spear in our own. It’s like trying to tell people about a car by telling people: “It doesn’t fly”, “it doesn’t like going off road”, “it really doesn’t like it if you brake hard”, etc… Would you be interested in a car if that was the message? What about “It goes 0 to 60 in 3 seconds flat”, “it is completely maintenance free”, “it is stylish and comfortable”?
- This is a big one for me. There are people that can quote to you more Bible verses than you can shake a stick at. They have a verse for every possible thing that you can throw at them. The problem is that they are completely out of context. Try taking a newspaper and reading one out of every ten sentences. You’re probably going to get a story that is just a little bit inaccurate. Secondly, it is not the words that are important, in and of themselves, but the whole story that they tell and all the parts in between.
- If I am not a Christian, asking me if I know Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior is going to tick me off. Has anyone encountered someone who says “No, I don’t, thank you for asking, I think I will do that.” Nowadays, people generally have heard about Christianity. They know it exists. If you’re not one, you probably think Christians are nutcases and that Jesus is a fictional crutch. Asking that question simply adds fuel to their fire.
- Altar calls are touchy. I know many people who think that they are the bees knees. However, I think that they are disturbing. #1 – They play to people’s emotions. #2 – They feed off of people’s desires to get attention. #3 – They are based upon that “point of conversion” and not about the race. #4 – It has nothing to do with long-term discipleship. #5 – It uses peer pressure. I could go on and on as to why I think most altar calls are a disgrace. Unfortunately, they have become such a huge staple of evangelism that people will only see what they think is good and nothing else. What’s my suggestion? I really like when people offer to give the people the opportunity to make a decision to take a step and they offer someone to help them. I don’t think they should raise their hand, come on stage or “commit their lives to Christ” right then and there. There is a way to do it right, but mostly it is not done that way.
In summary, let’s preach the good news…. all of it…. and make disciples of all nations, and let God take care of the rest.
Posted by Patrick Corkum on May 26, 2010
Ahh… late spring! That means… STRAWBERRIES! So my daughter (Mia) and I hiked off to the berry picking farm (a.k.a. our backyard) to pick strawberries. We have a relatively small patch out back that is mostly contained which has just massive amounts of strawberries. We were really looking forward to the production this year since last year the patch was tiny and it grew about ten times its size last year after the June harvest. Just today Mia and I picked almost 50 strawberries! They are sooOOOooo good! There is nothing like strawberries fresh from the garden. Never-mind the learning experience that goes with it for the kiddos. One of the best parts was when we washed them off. Mia got to practice her counting. I would wash one off, hand it to her and she would count it. We practiced her “th” sound with thirteen, thirty, etc… We also practiced that after 29, it is not “twenty-ten”, but thirty. See, it’s all about using everyday experiences to teach. That is how they learn best!
Posted by Patrick Corkum on May 12, 2010
I really want to know if I am being ridiculous or not. Yesterday (and many other times), I have peered into the Peanut Butter jar in the hopes of making a delicious peanut butter sandwich. I unscrew the top, look inside and there’s white crusty stuff in the peanut butter jar! See, my darling wife, God bless her, doesn’t want to clean the knife or get a new one when making fluffernutters. She makes them regularly for the kids and always puts the fluff on first. Then, using the same knife, goes for the peanut butter. So, am I nutso for being annoyed? I mean, the incremental cost of washing two knives over 1 is nil since we use a dishwasher. In addition, we have plenty of knives. If we were to run out, I could walk over to the in-laws (10 feet away) and grab one of theirs. But once that fluff gets in the peanut butter jar… it’s all over… start a new jar! So, am I alone in this?
Posted by Patrick Corkum on May 11, 2010
Like to fish? I don’t know what took me so long to find this, but… I found TakeMeFishing.Org. I plan on going up to NY for their free fishing weekend. If you don’t fish and have kids, take this opportunity to take your kids fishing! I have so many great memories and stories to tell of fishing with my kids. Here’s the list of states and their free fishing dates.
Posted by Patrick Corkum on May 10, 2010
Growing up, my wife took dance lessons with the local Recreation & Parks. So, as she has gotten older, she has really wanted to go back and dance some more. So, this year, she did just that. Well, this past weekend was her performance. I took the kids to her first performance on Saturday morning. We sat through an hour and a half of their interpretation of “Annie”. Fortunately, we did not go to the afternoon performance which was 3 hours long. Yikes!
Afterwards, I asked Mia whether she enjoyed it. She did. I then apologized to PJ for making him sit through it. <He did claim that he enjoyed it though.> Ty said that he liked it too. I think he did, but I’ll never know because he repeats everything the other two say, no matter what it is. “I like sardines”…. “I like saheenes”.
Then there’s me. I enjoy dance. However, recreational dance makes me think that I’m on recreational drugs. I don’t want to put anyone down, I am sure they worked hard at it, but I am not going to play it up… it is what it is. My problem is that I look for people to mess up. For instance, we went to see the Rockettes back in November. I pointed out every inaccuracy that I could find to my wife. This is just what I do. I love to notice problems and figure out how to improve them. Saturday’s performance made my brain tired. How many times can I watch 3 year old girls dressed in silly glittery outfits tap their feet and turn around, just to repeat tapping their feet again in absolutely perfect disarray to the oohs and aahs of the audience? Torture, I tell you…. torture! If Jack Bauer saw this, he would never use physical force again.
Okay, I know parents think it’s cute and all… I have a little girl too… I can understand. But you know what happens when it isn’t your little girl (or boy) up there anymore…
Posted by Patrick Corkum on May 8, 2010
So, I had to watch Ty yesterday afternoon all by himself. I can’t get much done inside with him, so I took him outside to play. He is quite good at entertaining himself in there. Well, he’s pretty good entertaining himself inside too. Outside, he plays in the sandbox, on the slide, with trucks and all kinds of constructive things. Inside, he screams, yells, whines, bangs things, and anything else that he can think of to annoy the heck out of me. If the other two are home, he will add hitting, taking toys and bugging. So, outside we went. Besides, I had plenty of work to do in my garden.
So, he played for a good while and was generally behaving, which doesn’t happen all that often. I was off watering the plants, tying back the raspberries, building a “trellis” for my peas and green-beans and a support thing-a-ma-bob for one of my grapes. Ty comes over to me and tells me that he wants to ride on his scooter. I tell him, “no, go play in the sand, you can’t ride your scooter with flip-flops on.” He goes away and plays with trucks. He comes back over to me and says “Daddy, I want go inside. I hot.” “Ty, it’s not hot out here [it's like 72... in the sun]; we’re staying outside. Go play in the sand.” Ty walks slowly over towards the sandbox… walks right past it, finds a chair in the shade of the red maple, and climbs up. He then puts his head on the arm rest and doesn’t move for the next hour and a half.
I love how some people can just pick a spot and sleep. I can’t even climb into a hotel bed and sleep, no matter how tired I am. Some people have all the luck!
Posted by Patrick Corkum on May 6, 2010
Okay, so Melissa thought it would be a good idea to blog about our fighting style (Read it here). Generally speaking she is right on track. She missed a couple things though. Namely that I am always the one that is right :).
The funny thing about fights is that they always start with something stupid and insignificant. You know those kinds of things… they’re things like “leaving the bathroom light on”, or “forgetting to take out the trash”, or “leaving your shoes in the wrong place”. It usually stems from something deeper that the stupid thing just pushes to its tipping point.
The type thing that usually is the bubbling problem differs between men and women. And this may sound crazy to some of you, but the REAL underlying problem can usually go back to either the husband or wife not holding up their part in what the Bible says about husband/wife relationships. For instance, from the NIV:
- Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)
- Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. (Eph 5:22, 23)
- Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Eph 5: 24)
- Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25)
- In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Eph 5:28)
- However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself (Eph 5:33a)
- the wife must respect her husband. (Eph 5:33b)
- Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. (Col 3:19)
I know… some of you think that those are WAY out there and oppressing to women. I have one thing to say about that… “THEY’RE NOT”. God has ingrained certain characteristics in men and certain characteristics for women. Men, whether they know it or not, seek a woman to submit to them. They have an inherent desire to be respected and submitted to. When that doesn’t happen, many men are going to seek a different situation. Women want little more than to simply be respected and loved.
Anyway, I wanted to add to my wife’s list of fighting rules:
- Be slow to speak and choose your words wisely as you cannot take them back.
- Try to keep the volume low.
- Resolve before you depart or sleep.
- Don’t bring up past misdeeds.
- Always try really hard to remember how much you loved the other before the fight.
Shoot… I was going to try to make this post funny… oh well.. maybe next time.
Posted by Patrick Corkum on May 5, 2010
So, it has been a little while since I have updated on my weight loss journey. The bad news first…. I didn’t lose any weight. In fact, I am up to 187.4. Argh…. So, I have to ask myself why. And here are the reasons excuses why:
- My body doesn’t want to cooperate.
- I have not been able to do much exercise because I hurt my achilles while playing golf.
- I had to eat out too much because I went on two trips.
Now, regardless of whether or not I have been able to exercise because of my injury (which has been quite painful), I had gone almost a full week eating only a very few calories per day and running on the treadmill for 30 minutes a day. After all of that, I had gained weight to more than I am now. I think my body has gotten to the point where it pulls calories out of the air. Either that or the energy companies need to obtain my body for scientific research in order to determine how to get more energy out of a system than goes in. I could be a millionaire!
Posted by Patrick Corkum on May 1, 2010
As I am studying the Greek language, I am realizing how much translations are interpretations. It is not really possible to simply translate one language into another. Concepts exist in some languages where they don’t exist in others. There are also idioms that exist in languages (and cultures) that don’t make sense in others. A great example is the Hebrew idiom that is used in the Old Testament that is literally translated “long of the nostrils”. Huh? Well, this is translated in the English as “slow to anger”.
So, the one that has been bothering me is James 1:27. The reason that it is bothering me is that the way it is translated in English Bibles is an interpretation. I don’t want to get too heady, but bear with me. The NIV translates the Greek as:
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
This would lead one to believe that keeping oneself from being polluted by the world is a separate command. Now, up to the “and to keep”, I am not going to get into… but let’s look at the Greek for a minute…. don’t worry, I will walk you through it.
“θρησκεία καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος παρὰ τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὕτη ἐστίν, ἐπισκέπτεσθαι ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν, ἄσπιλον ἑαυτὸν τηρεῖν ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου.”
See the comma? Well, that isn’t there in the manuscripts, but that is okay, I want to use it as a reference point. So let’s start with “ἄσπιλον ἑαυτὸν”. The translation that the NIV has for that works fine… it is translated as “oneself from being polluted”, perhaps “himself unstained”. Himself is the noun there and it is in what is called the accusative. In other words, it is the object of the verb, that is why it shows up in the English after the verb. The verb here is “τηρεῖν”. This verb is in what is called the infinitive. It means “to keep”, like “to keep his commandments.” So, what is an infinitive verb? It makes the verb function as a noun and conveys the concept of “in order that” or “for the purpose of”. Read here to understand what the infinitive means. “ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου” means “from the world”. So, where does that leave us? My translation!
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress in order to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
I simply replaced the “and”, which does not occur in the Greek with the concept of what the infinitive is. Now, this translation conveys something COMPLETELY different than the NIV. My translation conveys that looking after orphans and widows in their distress is how you remain unstained by the world.
Does this sound weird? Well, people have been testifying to the truth of that argument. Kay Warren (Rick Warren’s wife) has an entire talk where she explains how she has become “gloriously ruined” by caring for orphans and widows. What she means by that is that she cares nothing about the culture and the trivialities of life anymore. She doesn’t want to talk about anything but God’s heart for the orphan and widow. She wrote an article here.
James is not trying to tell us to do two separate things. People are trying to figure out how to keep themselves from becoming “of the world” and he is telling us how. Sorry if this was really heady.
Posted by Patrick Corkum on April 30, 2010
Closing talk is John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Things I like
1. He pointed out something that I have been trying to tell people…. they should not exclude the last part of James 1:27… “remaining unstained by the world.” He and I disagree about what James was saying, but the concept is close enough. People should not forget that part.
2. The point of his talk is “acting through faith”. This is so true… it is not us, but Christ working in us. We must walk by faith. He uses Hebrews 11 to make the point that it is going to be tough and painful… but that is the “risk” of faith.
3. He’s got a dynamic presentation quality.
Things I don’t like….
1. He seems to be using a form sermon. You know, take the sermon and fill in the ministry of the group you are talking to in the blank. It doesn’t make it any less true, but still.
2. He closes his eyes too much.
He’s going through something in his life, I am not sure what it is, but it seems to be eating him to the core. He is taking a ministry break to “reexamine his soul”. I hope and pray things go well.