Our final round of highlights and short excerpts for discussion from our extended series, Truth & Love: Communicating Gospel Truth In Speech & Action. If you’ve missed much of the series, these highlights may spark your curiosity. If you’ve been following the series, these may solidify some thoughts or provide for some discussion with a friend, or even for an outreach committee or session of a church.
1) Jeremiah Montgomery was asked to talk about communication that really “connects” with people. He chose to write about the power and place of personal testimony in his experience. He tells of some powerful examples in his life with friends which you can read in the post, but here is a short section about the relationship of argument and testimony for consideration:
“Lest any reader get the wrong idea, let me say at this point that I am not opposed to formal apologetics or the use of reason in seeking to remove obstacles to faith. I studied philosophy as an undergraduate, and I love discussing the foundations and consequences of ideas! As my congregants have heard me say many times, I believe that “under every hard question is a hidden assumption,” and that unearthing such assumptions can be one of the means God uses to defeat so-called “defeater beliefs” and break down resistance to the gospel message. I have often commended the works of Tim Keller in this vein, especially his Encounters with Jesus and The Reason for God.
So I am not saying that formal apologetics has no use. What I am saying is that there is a power in personal witness that, in my experience, has proven superior to abstract reasoning. With enough academic training, even an avowed pagan can tell you what Christians believe Jesus means for metaphysics or epistemology. But only a Christian can say to somebody, “This is what Jesus means to me.” There is an authenticity and immediacy to the latter that the former simply lacks. I think this is what my friends found so compelling.
I believe this is also what Peter means when he instructs believers in his well-known passage: “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,” (1 Pet. 3:15). Yes, it’s true that the word translated here as ‘defense’ (Gk: apologia) seems to have a formal, even legal sense to it in the New Testament (cf. Acts 22:1, 25:16). However, in this case does not the context call for something deeper and more personal when Peter speaks of “a reason for the hope that is in you”?
Question: What do you think of Jeremiah’s point about the power of a personal testimony? Is this something we’ve tended to think belongs to the “evangelicals” who bring people up front for a somewhat muddled testimony and have we forgotten the power of a personal testimony of what God has done for us–especially in the right setting, maybe in more one on one conversation?
2) Paul Viggiano wrote about being Reformed and “normal”– a combination that at times could seem increasingly rare. Here is a short excerpt revealing Paul’s angle on the whole article.
“At times I do enjoy the poetic tones of the King James Version. Other times those 1611 words just don’t fit well into the 21st century vernacular. The word peculiar comes to mind. In 1 Peter 2:9 Peter tells Christians they are a “peculiar people.” Some of us in the Reformed community run with that. We understand peculiar to mean odd or strange when it actually meant to be owned by someone-in Peter’s meaning, owned by God. Have you noticed the reformed community has become peculiar by the new definition over the old?
Who knows what it would have felt like to sit in a pub with Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, Bullinger or Calvin? I’m guessing in many ways they may have fit right in. These reformers, who carved out western civilization as we know it, had the ears of the people-all kinds of people. So whatever oddities or peculiarities they possessed, it didn’t unnecessarily disenfranchise them. It didn’t unnecessarily remove them from their culture. The operative word here being unnecessarily. No doubt they had run-ins with their culture as Jesus clearly taught good Christians would. But it was a result of the message, not the personalities of the ones delivering it (with the possible exception of Luther).”
Question: Is the sometimes peculiar personalities of Reformed folks something you’ve noticed either in your own congregation or when you visit others? Think about what a “normal” person off the street might experience when visiting your church–who might they most likely come in contact with, what topics of conversation would they most likely walk into the moments after church? “Normal” doesn’t mean “like the world” as Paul lays out in the post, but how could we be more aware of this “peculiarity” as we interact with visitors and welcome them into our circles?
3) Brad Hertzog developed an extended analogy for how to think of our Sunday mornings in regard to visitors–they need a tour guide. The post is lengthy and goes through the various parts of a Sunday, but here is a short segment that expresses the theme of the article:
“Why was this tour so enjoyable, not only for me but for everyone who took it? It was because of the tour guide. She took outsiders and made us feel like insiders. She took a place we had never been to and made it feel a little bit more familiar. She told us how to get around. She was low key and pleasant, but you could tell she loved her city. She wasn’t selling it to us, just showing us around. Not only did I enjoy the tour greatly, it changed my whole 3-day trip.
This college-aged girl in Iceland teaches us much about Sundays in our church. People need a tour guide. They are visiting a foreign world where they don’t know anybody and don’t know how things work. They don’t just need a warm greeting or smile and a brief welcome from the pulpit, though those are helpful. They need a tour guide from before they arrive until they walk out of the building. They are outsiders and they need insiders to show them around and make them feel at home so they enjoy their whole visit.
How do we do that? The most important thing is to put yourself in their shoes and help them with things they need to understand in a way that makes them feel like an insider, not an outsider. And that is hard to do.”
Question: A tour guide is very aware of how outsiders feel coming into a new world. If a visitor arrives at your church for the first time ever in a church, what things will they encounter that are necessarily a “new world” experience because Christianity requires them to enter a new world and what things are unnecessarily a “new world” experience because we simply haven’t gone out of our way to consider the ways we better welcome and serve visitors who aren’t familiar with church or even a Reformed church?
If these highlights have sparked a curiosity, you can find these posts and all the posts from the series here: “Truth & Love Series”