Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Amazing Grace; The Rest of the Story

This is the "rest of the story" about the great hymn, "Amazing Grace". It adds a whole new dimension to John Newton's conversion to Christianity; specifically, his repentance over his sin and its expression in music.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Old School; Old Books & Typewriter

A truly classy bookseller. Maybe I'll buy a typewriter.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thoughts on Evangelism & Discipleship

In the biblical evangelism community (BEC) there is a narrow view of the Great Commission (GC). We tend to view our responsibility as fulfilled if we obey Mark 16:15's injunction to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. If we go into a venue and "sow and go", we think that we have done all that we have been asked to do by our Lord.

This is a narrow view of the GC because of the fact that we must look at all of the GC passages as parallel and not exclusive of one another. For example, what do we do with Matthew 28:18-20? Here, the GC includes the idea of baptizing disciples and then teaching them to do all things that the Lord has commanded them to do. This is much broader than just giving people the Gospel. It assumes responsibility on the part of the commissioned to train the one who comes to Christ, the disciple.

Generally speaking, in the BEC those who would even mention that they are affiliated with a church when they are on the streets are viewed with some suspicion. After all, we are not there to get people to come to our church, we are there to get them to come to Christ. True enough. However, what if they do come to Christ? Or what if they want more information than you can give them in one sitting? Many people want to count the cost, weigh the evidence, and think this thing through before giving everything up to follow Christ. In fact, that is the right thing to do. Where are they going to get that information? Doesn't it stand to reason that a good place for them to get that information would be at a solid local church?

When was the last time that you read 1 Corinthians 12? So many people miss the point of this text, focusing on what gifts are or are not for today, what gifts we have, etc. The point of the text is the fact that the Lord has gifted people in the church with various gifts for the purpose of the edification of all within the local church. No one person, including the pastor, has all of the gifts necessary to do the work of edification. We need each other. I do not have everything I need to edify a new believer. But my church does. Discipleship is a team effort.

It is also our habit to suggest that our responsibility ends with our witness. We cite Philippians 1:6 and say that the Lord is the One who does the work and that He who began a good work in the life of a true believer will be faithful to complete it. Again, true enough. But does Philippians 1:6 somehow trump the responsibility we are given in Matthew 28:18-20?

I don't agree with everything that he teaches, but Zac Poonen has made an excellent point when he said that most missionaries emphasize either evangelism at the neglect of discipleship or vice versa. It is rare to find a missionary who has proper emphasis on both. Rarer still are those in the BEC who are even trying to understand the balance.

What would you say if I told you that I carry copies of my church business card with me in my wallet? I give these to people who I witness to who live near my church. What would you say about the fact that I am convicted that I need to invite more people to church? Would you consider me watered down? Compromised? Misguided?

This is not to say that most churches have a right understanding of their role in discipleship. Most do not. The point of Matthew 28:18-20 is NOT that we simply teach the new disciples all things that Jesus has commanded. No, it is that we teach them to OBSERVE all things which He has commanded. In other words, that we actually teach them how to DO those things. This insinuates that the teacher (us) is actually doing those things He has commanded and knows how to teach others to do the same thing. There are some churches which are excellent at the teaching them WHAT He commanded, but are not so hot on teaching them the how-to.

All of this does not mean that I am going to stop doing and planning outreaches outside of driving distance to my church. It does not mean that I am going to stop evangelizing strangers in public and private settings. It does mean that I am going to try to figure out how we can do evangelism publicly all around the world and still be smart about working with solid local churches in those areas to refer new believers or interested unbelievers to them.

I'm not saying that I have "arrived". I will admit that I am working on learning true discipleship. My hope is that all of us in the BEC will work on it as well. If we don't, I think that the biblical relevance of our community is in jeopardy. I'm not sure that we can survive beyond this present generation of evangelists if we don't.



Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The People You Meet

Over the last year I've had the unique privilege of selling used books to some interesting individuals from every corner of the globe. Because we specialize in theology and biblical studies, some of these folks are well-known church leaders, theologians, and professors of theology. In one instance, we sold a book to a major cult leader.

But we don't sell theology alone; we also have modern first editions, Texas fiction and non-fiction, Americana, and a general antiquarian stock. As a result, I've been blessed over the years to sell to some celebrities and authors. Back when I had a used bookstore in upstate New York, I even bought some books from celebrities. Debra Winger once walked into my store and sold me a bag of paperback fiction. An editor from Esquire magazine lived in our area and bought a some books from me. When he came out with his first novel, he signed my copy. Well known artists from New York City (we were less than 2 hours away) came in looking for books. One artist bought bunches of books for a piece that she did using the torn up books as part of her medium. Stephen King shopped for homes in our area for awhile, but did not move there. More recently we sold a high end book to a guy who has published a controversial biography of President Gerald Ford. I consider him one of my less savory clients since he is considered a weasel in the used\rare book world. But his check was good.

Looking over my client database recently, I discovered that I've sold a couple of books to a prominent Emergent Church leader. I double checked it against the leader's website, and the email address is the same, so it's safe to assume that this is the same person. We send out Gospel tracts with all of our books, so I was surprised recently when he made another order. Sometimes people get very offended (not very often, thankfully) when they get a tract with a book, and I would expect that an EC guy who is as New Age as this guy is would take exception. If he did, he didn't say so and now he is a repeat customer.

So, I upped the ante. We usually send out short tracts like the "Smart Card" from Living Waters or the "What If?" card from One Million Tracts. This time I've sent him the tract "True Repentance" which is a longer tri-fold tract which deals with false conversion. A little more "in your face", with the hope that we might begin to dialogue. Call it my attempt to "enter the conversation", if you will.

At any rate, I never looked at my bookselling as ministry back when I focused on general antiquarian. Now, things are quite different. Every book gets shipped with a tract. Will anything ever come of this ministry? Only the Lord knows that. In the meantime, we'll continue to send tracts to customers who are "somebodies" and "nobodies" with the hope that the Lord will save some.