Jim Archives

50 Leaders of the Evangelical Generation: #12 John Stott. Evangelical Pope

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#12 John Stott. Evangelical Pope b.1921


The most beloved of evangelical pastors and theologians in the last 30 years is probably John Stott, who although an Anglican from Great Britain has nonetheless been calming influence, a source of clarity and conviction, and a convening force for evangelicals in America and the world over.

Stott has written more than 50 books, including Basic Christianity, The Cross of Christ (of which J. I. Packer says: “No other treatment of this supreme subject says so much so truly and so well.”), and Evangelical Truth.

He has traveled regularly to the United States, and his prominence within North American evangelicalism was reflected in his role as Bible expositor on six occasions at Urbana, the triennial student missions convention arranged by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote of Stott:

“This is why so many people are so misinformed about evangelical Christians. There is a world of difference between real-life people of faith and the made-for-TV, Elmer Gantry-style blowhards who are selected to represent them. Falwell and Pat Robertson are held up as spokesmen for evangelicals, which is ridiculous. Meanwhile people like John Stott, who are actually important, get ignored.

It could be that you have never heard of John Stott. I don’t blame you. As far as I can tell, Stott has never appeared on an important American news program. A computer search suggests that Stott’s name hasn’t appeared in this newspaper since April 10, 1956, and it’s never appeared in many other important publications.

Yet, as Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center notes, if evangelicals could elect a pope, Stott is the person they would likely choose.”

In the words of his biographer, Timothy Dudley-Smith:

“John Stott has provided a model for international city-centre contemporary ministry now so widely accepted that few now realize its original innovative nature.” Central in this model were five criteria: the priority of prayer, expository preaching, regular evangelism, careful follow-up of enquirers and converts, and the systematic training of helpers and leaders.

One of Stott’s major contributions to world evangelization was through the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization held at Lausanne, Switzerland. John Stott acted as chair of the drafting committee for the Lausanne Covenant, a significant milestone in the evangelical movement. As chair of the Lausanne Theology and Education Group from 1974 to 1981, he strengthened evangelical understanding of the relation between evangelism and social action. He was again chair of the drafting committee for the Manila Manifesto, a document produced by the second International Congress in 1989.

Although known for a gentle tone and for his embrace of dialogue among varied groups of Christians and with other faiths, Stott makes it clear that he does not believe truth is plural.

As Brooks writes:

“Stott does not believe in relativizing good and evil or that all faiths are independently valid, or that truth is something humans are working toward. Instead, Truth has been revealed. Stott writes: ‘It is not because we are ultra-conservative, or obscurantist, or reactionary or the other horrid things which we are sometimes said to be. It is rather because we love Jesus Christ, and because we are determined, God helping us, to bear witness to his unique glory and absolute sufficiency. In Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ God’s revelation is complete; to add any words of our own to his finished work is derogatory to Christ.’ ”

Stott has remained celibate his entire life. He says, “The gift of singleness is more a vocation than an empowerment, although to be sure God is faithful in supporting those He calls.”

Stott has publicly considered the idea of annihilationism, which is the belief that hell is incineration into non-existence rather than eternal conscious torment (the traditional evangelical view). This has led to some criticism and some support.

Despite his formal retirement from public engagements, he is still engaged in regular writing. In January 2010, at the age of 88, he launched of what would explicitly be his final book: The Radical Disciple.

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Tragedy: How Your Church Can Help!

What can we do as Christians and what can our churches do to help address the damage from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Here’s a thorough guide from Flourish, with clear information, how to pray, ideas for fundraising, and tips for action.

One tip:

Although it is not appropriate to fly down to the Gulf Coast, pick up an oil-slicked bird, and start scrubbing on your own, there are lots of opportunities to assist established organizations with oil spill clean up efforts at ground zero.

50 leaders of the evangelical generation: #19 Bill Hybels. Church changer

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#19 Bill Hybels. Church changer b.1951

Walk into most evangelicals churches in America today, large and small, and you are likely to see the influences in worship style and service components of Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek church and association. It is particularly true in the megachurches, regardless of their evangelical flavor–from reformed to Wesleyan, charismatic or Baptist. Early, he was criticized for using marketing language to sell church and accused of smoothing the sharp corners off the Gospel to make it more “seeker-sensitive.” In recent years the Willowcreek team has been its own strongest critic, faulting its failure to adequately develop spiritual maturity while creating an enormous, active congregation.

Hybels’ South Barrington, Illinois, church is the third most attended in the country, with an average weekly attendance exceeding 23,000, and the nation’s most influential church for the last several years in a national poll of pastors. He is also the founder of the Willow Creek Association and creator of the Global Leadership Summit.

In 1971, as youth pastor at Park Ridge’s South Park Church, Hybels started a youth group with friend Dave Holmbo. With modern music, dramatic skits and multimedia combined with Bible studies in relevant language, the group grow from 25 to 1,200 in just three years.

After 300 youth waited in line to be led to Christ in a service in May 1974, Hybels and other leaders began dreaming of forming a new church. They surveyed the community to find out why people weren’t coming to church. Common answers included: “church is boring”, “they’re always asking for money”, or “I don’t like being preached down to.” These answers shaped the group’s approach to creating a new church, Willow Creek.

In October 1975 the group held their first service at Palatine’s Willow Creek Theater. 125 people attended the service. The rent and other costs were paid for with 1,200 baskets of tomatoes, sold door-to-door by 100 teenagers. Within two years the church had grown to 2,000 and in 1981 it moved to its current suburban location.
Willow Creek is the prototypical megachurch, with modern worship, drama and messages focused on the unchurched. Through its association, Willow has promoted a vision of church that is big, programmatic, and comprehensive.

Not long ago Willow released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry. Willow Creek leadership wanted to know what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not.
The research revealed that “increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does not predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does not predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”

Speaking at his Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings:

“Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

Now, our dream is to fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet.”.

More than any other person of his generation, Bill Hybels developed a church ministry plan, found the blend of stability and innovation, and built a team that figured out how to involve modern, message-saturated Americans in church programs and services—in very large numbers for many years. But perhaps even more important, Hybels found an effective way to share that information with other church leaders, and then after painstaking measurement publicly admit mistakes—not in church building or evangelism, but in not more successfully leading believers to deeper levels of Christian maturity—and commit to correcting them.

A Southern Baptist Leader’s View of the Oil Spill and Christian Responsbility

There is no shortage of articles and broadcast reports on the Gulf oil spill–who is to blame, what’s being done to stem the flow of oil, what the impact will be on the Gulf coast and its people, flora and fauna.

The Flourish Blog has an important view of things, The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Creation Care, from Southern Baptist Seminary’s Russell Moore.

Moore writes:

Some conservatives, and some conservative evangelicals, act as though “environmentalism” is by definition “liberal” or even just downright silly. Witness a lot of the evangelical rhetoric across social media on Earth Day a while back: mostly Al Gore jokes and wisecracks about cutting down trees or eating endangered species as a means of celebration.

Do some environmentalists reject the dignity of humanity? Yes. Do some replace the reverence for creation with that due the Creator? Of course. This happens in the same way some do the same thing with reverence for economic profit or any other finite thing.

There’s nothing conservative though, and nothing “evangelical,” about dismissing the conservation of the natural environment. And the accelerating Gulf crisis reminds us something of what’s at stake.

This is an important read for those of us who are conservative evangelicals from one of our community’s articulate leaders.

There is an encouraging move afoot by conservative evangelicals to deal constructively with the immigration issue and to find a solidly biblical approach not necessarily in line with majority Republican or Democratic positions.

The effort is headed by Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Matt Staver, dean of the Liberty University Law School, and Samuel Rodriquez, head of the largest evangelical hispanic group in the nation.

Today’s news:

A growing chorus of conservative evangelical leaders has broken with their traditional political allies on the right. They’re calling the Arizona law misguided and are attempting to use its passage to push for federal immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The group, which includes influential political activists such as Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy wing, and Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law, will soon begin lobbying Republican leaders in Washington to support comprehensive immigration reform under President Obama.

But a big part of their job is to first persuade rank-and-file evangelicals to get on board.

“There’s a misconception among people at the grass roots that the pathway to citizenship is amnesty, and it’s not, but we have to overcome that,” said Staver, who heads the law school at the university founded by Jerry Falwell. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Staver and Land have partnered with the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, an influential Hispanic evangelical figure, and Rick Tyler — former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s longtime spokesman and head of Gingrich’s new values-based organization — to try to draft a consensus evangelical position on immigration reform.

American Makeover Series Starts in Sprawlanta

When filmmakers John Paget and Chris Elisara were looking for a location to shoot the pilot of their new web series on the strategic growth of American cities, they considered Atlanta the natural choice. It is history’s fastest expanding city, which in their series premiere—called Sprawlanta—they say would spread from coast to coast at the rate it has grown since its beginning. But they found that Atlanta was not only the poster child of suburban sprawl but also the site of one of the nation’s models of what is called “new urbanism.”  Glenwood Park, a development by Internet entrepreneur Charles Brewer on the Glenwood Avenue connector, provides an example of a  in-town location with wonderful places to live, work, shop, eat, and play within walking distance; a model of what  these fans of new urbanism say will create safer, more enjoyable, and healthier cities.


The series is called American Makeover and you can view the Sprawlanta series premiere and support this project here.



50 leaders of the evangelical generation: #50 Kurt Warner, sportsman

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#50 Kurt Warner. Sportsman b. 1971

Arizona Cardinal quarterback Kurt Warner has many admirers, not only because of his stellar play, his sportsmanship, and his perseverance, but also because he’s so open about his Christian faith. He does not take the credit for his success without thanking God and praising Jesus Christ. There have been many stunning victories in Warner’s career, one of the most decorated post-season quarterbacks of all time. After each victory, the first words out of his mouth are recognition that his skills come from God and his life is in His hands.

There are many athletes today who use the limelight to shine light on their faith in God; it has become part of the sports landscape. Athletes congregate on the field after a game to pray; stars offer a sound bite honoring Jesus. It rarely makes the news. Warner is among the most prominent, consistent, and most effective. He understands a discussion with sports reporters about resurrections comes only in the context of career revivals and that tape recorders or cameras are often shut off when faith references start up.

During a visit to The Oprah Winfrey Show, Warner “basically had three sentences to say, so, in the middle one, I made sure I mentioned my faith, because how could they cut it out?” he said. “I went to watch the show on replay . . . and they cut it out!”

Warner is justified in wanting his faith to be part of his story, because it is dishonest and inaccurate to do otherwise. He is one of the NFL’s great success stories. In five years, he went from a 22-year-old stock boy at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Hy-Vee grocery store to Super Bowl MVP. Later, he has morphed again, from unemployed veteran to a record-setting starting quarterback with the Cardinals, taking them to the first Super Bowl in team history.

“I wasn’t always this way,” he told an Arizona sports writer. During his final season at the University of Northern Iowa in 1993, Warner went to a country-music dance bar called Wild E. Coyotes. He spotted Brenda Carney Meoni and asked her to dance. Her immediate reaction? “Get away. Get away.”

“Here’s this cute guy in a bar with an entourage of females, and I’m the last person that makes sense for him to go to,” said Brenda Warner. “I’m a divorced woman with two kids, one with special needs. And Kurt’s 21. Twenty-one.”

They danced, and the next day, Warner was knocking on her door with a rose.

“Again, I’m screaming in my head, ‘Go away!’ but I opened the door and said, ‘C’mon in,'” she said. “My 2 1/2-year-old grabs him by the hand and shows him every radio we own.” He fell in love with my kids before he fell in love with me. When we’d have a fight and were going to break up, he’d say, ‘Well I get the kids.’ I’m like, ‘But they’re my kids!’ ”

They stuck together, even when it appeared football wasn’t in Warner’s future. He signed with the Green Bay Packers as a free agent in 1994 but was cut before the season began. He returned to UNI to work as a graduate assistant football coach and spent nights stocking shelves at the local Hy-Vee grocery store. He moved in with Brenda, who was struggling financially and turned to food stamps for a while. They drove a car that died every time it turned left.

He landed with the Arena Football League’s Iowa Barnstormers in 1995 and three years later was signed by the St. Louis Rams, who allocated him to the NFL’s developmental league in Europe.

Around this time, Warner began challenging Brenda about her faith. She had become a devout Christian as a 12-year-old after seeing a Christian film called A Distant Thunder. Warner questioned her, suggesting she was picking and choosing her beliefs from the Bible at her convenience. During this exploration, he studied the Bible. “When I did, it was obvious what the truth was,” Warner said. He committed himself to Christ.

Before they married, he told Brenda they should follow the Bible faithfully, which meant, among other things, no premarital sex. Brenda: “I’m like, ‘Dude, we’ve got so many other things to work on. Why that one?’ ”

They married in 1997. In 1999, he took over as the Rams’ quarterback when starter Trent Green was injured. What followed was two Super Bowls, two MVP titles. He was both revered and scorned for his outspokenness about faith.

“I do try now to strategically figure out (during interviews) how I can get somebody to include a reference to my faith because it’s so important to who I am,” Warner said.

He always has the Bible in his hand when he does postgame interviews. He joins players in postgame group-prayer sessions on the field. He loves to engage in spiritual discussions with teammates, but says he tries not to be in-your-face about it. He wants the words of the Bible to guide his everyday life.

Warner is among many evangelical Christians who, over the last generation, have risen to prominence in professional sports and expressed their faith from this platform. These include former stars such as NFL defensive end Reggie White, Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary, now head coach of the San Francisco 49ers; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham; San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky; and Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. Also NFL coaches Tom Landry, Dan Reeves, Joe Gibbs, and Tony Dungy;and Florida State University’s longtime football coach Bobby Bowden.

Currently, outspoken Christians include Yankee finisher Mariano Rivera; Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers; Olympic sprinting medalist Allyson Felix; Indianapolis Colts punter Hunter Smith; Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton; Atlanta Falcons kicker Jason Elam; San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavy; former NASCAR driver and team owner Michael Waltrip; PGA golfer and Masters champ Zach Johnson; and most recently, University of Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, who was selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos.

Of course, not everyone welcomes this expression of Christian conviction from athletes who use their celebrity to good effect. At times, the complaint is more about the exclusivity of Jesus’ message itself. USA columnist Tom Krattenmaker called for a stop to Christian witness in a 2009 op-ed article. He wrote:

“I am impressed by the good that’s done by sports-world Christians. Jesus-professing athletes are among the best citizens in their sector, and they commit good deeds daily in communities across this country. These sports stars, like all Americans, have a right to express their faith. Evangelical players and ministry representatives in sports aren’t out to harm anyone, of course. On the contrary, they see themselves as fulfilling the Bible’s Great Commission (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19). In this sense, their mission is pure altruism: They seek to share the gift of eternal life.

But there’s a shadow side to this. If their take on God and truth and life is the only right one — which their creed boldly states — everyone else is wrong….It’s not just non-Christians who might have a thing or two to say about this exclusive theology. According to a December 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life, 65% of American Christians believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. Our pluralism is a defining and positive reality of American life — but not one that is much valued by those who define the faith coursing through the veins of sports culture.”

Warner’s faith extends beyond the well-planned media interview. When he and his family dine on the road, they always buy dinner for another table in the restaurant, but they keep the purchase anonymous. The children choose the family. Brenda Warner said it’s their way of teaching their kids one of the Bible’s messages: It’s not your circumstances that define you but what you do with those circumstances.

Many teammates respect his choices: “Warner shouldn’t be categorized only one way,” said former European league teammate Jack Delhomme, now quarterback of the Carolina Panthers. “Football doesn’t define Kurt Warner, and I think that’s the biggest thing to me. It’s not who he is. Kurt Warner is a lot bigger.”

Added Cardinals defensive tackle Bertrand Berry: “To limit Kurt as a Super Bowl champion would do a disservice to him. I think his legacy will be that he’s just a great human being, and I think that’s the highest compliment that you can give anybody.”

He and his wife, Brenda, lead the First Things First Foundation, which provides a range of services for families in extreme need

50 leaders of the evangelical generation: #7 James Dobson. The Voice.

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#7 James Dobson. The Voice b. 1936

The rise and radio reach of former USC psychologist James Dobson made him one of the most heard, respected (and among those opposed to his conservative political and positions, despised) public figures of his generation. His Focus on the Family program, which he started in a storefront office in Arcadia, California, in 1977, provided enormous help to parents and spouses through a radio program that was one of the nation’s most popular in any genre. At Dobson’s zenith, there was not a more powerful figure in evangelicalism.

In his final years of work at Focus on the Family, it had become difficult to recall the early days of James Dobson’s radio program. Shuttered behind high security doors of an immense Colorado headquarters, Dobson’s public voice had become increasingly polemic and political. The family-doctor persona had developed an edge, and his ministry was losing the distinctiveness of the original family-focused brand.

As one Christian publishing executive told me: “Focus on the Family sees their organization and the message for families, which is more needed than ever, now marginalized not by people outside the community of faith where those impressions have been entrenched for quite some time, but inside the community of faith where perceptions among 20 -30 year olds is that Focus is 90% political and 10% about the family.”

With Dobson stepping more squarely into the political arena in the last decade, what was known at Focus as the organization’s “nurturing” side—the lifeblood of the ministry—had been overshadowed in the public eye.

I know and like James Dobson. I’ve spent time with him on many occasions, and I have admiration for what he has done to help families. His accomplishments are enormous, and Focus on the Family (which by the way is one of the great organization names, because the name states the mission) is a powerhouse advocate for the family. It is wrong to dismiss the contributions of James Dobson because he yielded to the seduction of political power, and it is short-sighted to focus on Dobson’s political involvement, which—while not without impact—was the least successful and important of his endeavors.

His impact on Christian radio and the extent of his help to parents over many decades cannot be overstated. The Focus on the Family daily radio program airs on more than 2,000 radio stations, and has some 1.5 million listeners a day—enormous by Christian radio standards.

Son of a Nazarene Preacher
James C. Dobson Jr. was born to Myrtle and James Dobson in Shreveport, Louisiana, and from his earliest childhood, Christian faith was a central part of his life. He once told a reporter that he learned to pray before he learned to talk. In fact, he says he gave his life to Jesus at the age of three, in response to an altar call by his father. He is the son, grandson, and great-grandson of Church of the Nazarene ministers. His father, James Dobson Sr. (1911–1977), never went to college, choosing instead the life of a traveling evangelist. Dobson’s father was well-known in the southwest, and he and Mrs. Dobson often took their young son along so that he could watch his father preach. Like most Nazarenes, they forbade dancing and going to movies, so young “Jimmie Lee” (as he was called) concentrated on his studies, and also excelled at tennis.

Dobson studied psychology, which in the 1950s and 1960s was not looked upon favorably by most evangelical Christians. He came to believe that he was being called to become a Christian counselor or perhaps a Christian psychologist.[ He decided to pursue a degree in psychology, and ultimately received his doctorate in that field in 1967 from the University of Southern California.

Dobson first became well-known with the publication of Dare to Discipline, which encouraged parents to practice firm and decisive discipline in rearing their children.

Dobson married his wife, Shirley, on August 26, 1960; they have two children, Danae and Ryan. Ryan Dobson, a graduate of Biola University, is a public speaker in his own right, speaking on issues relating to youth, the philosophical belief in ontological truth, and the pro-life movement. Ryan Dobson was adopted by the Dobsons and is an ardent supporter of adoption, especially adoption of troubled children. Ryan says he spent years rebelling against the expectation that he should follow in his father’s footsteps. But he eventually found a calling: preaching at youth events. He formed Kor Ministries.He is as opposed to abortion and homosexuality as his father, but his tone is edgier. Reviewing the first book he co-wrote, “Be Intolerant: Because Some Things are Just Stupid,” Publishers Weekly said it had “all the subtlety of a two-by-four to the side of the head.”

Transition out of Focus

James Dobson has been moving toward retirement for several years, relinquishing the chief executive role in 2003, and the position of chairman of the board in 2009. But the decision to step away from his role as the host of the daily Focus program was clearly the board’s, not Dobson’s, and many believe the board had decided to strike a less strident political posture.

Nonetheless, Dobson clearly wasn’t ready to hang up his microphone, and he announced that he will launch a nonprofit Christian group and host a new radio show with Ryan. His radio agency, Ambassador Advertising, promoted the new program–Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson–at the 2010 National Religious Broadcasters convention as “a voice you trust for the family you love, merging a fun and inviting tone with topics that families wrestle with every day.”

50 leaders of the evangelical generation: #13 J. I. Packer. Wise counselor.

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#13. J.I. Packer, Wise Counselor b. 1926

It is surprising to first meet J.I. Packer in his academic setting, an unassuming room at Regent College in awe-inspiring Vancouver. My first impression was “Mr. Rogers Goes to College.” But then, of course, Packer speaks and you begin sense the wisdom of the ages in one of Christendom’s wise and courageous thinkers.

The son of a clerk for Britain’s Great Western Railway, Packer won a scholarship to Oxford University, where as a student he first met C.S. Lewis, whose teachings would become a major influence in his life. In a meeting of the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, Packer committed his life to Christ. Throughout the years Packer, like Lewis, taught and demonstrated that orthodoxy is the friend not the enemy of cross-cultural and cross-denominational engagement.

The Anglican scholar is one the most significant evangelical theologians of the last one hundred years and hHe has had a strong influence through his many book and lectures on many Christian renewal movements in the U.S. and worldwide. He has helped Christians in their pursuit of Knowing God, the title of his influential 1973 best seller, which taught the simple, deep truth that to know God is to love His Word..

A 2009 essay collection edited by Beeson professor Timothy George concludes that he “should be seen fundamentally as a “theologizer,” a “latter-day catechist,” a Reformed prophet standing in the tradition of Irenaeus, Augustine, Calvin, Baxter, and Owen.”

Packer has said “the numeric growth of evangelicals, which has been such a striking thing in our time, is likely never to become a real power, morally and spiritually, in the community that it ought to be if it does not embrace a God-centered way of thinking, an appreciation of his sovereignty, an appreciation of how radical the damage of sin is to the human condition and community, and with that, an appreciation of just how radical and transforming is the power of the Lord Jesus Christ in his saving grace.”

His collegial manner can mask what would otherwise be seen his conservative, even “right wing” beliefs. After being ordained in the Anglican church, Packer soon became recognized as a leader in the evangelical movement in the Church of England. In 1978, he signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which affirmed the conservative position on inerrancy.

In a 2009 discussion Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll found Packer to be “clear minded at age 82 and he remains incredibly conversant, insightful, and witty. Impressively, his words are impeccably precise.” During that visit, Packer explained his strong opposition to homosexuality on biblical grounds, and he said the teaching that Christians can remain practicing homosexuals is heresy because it denied the basic tenet of repentance.

Packer has also been engaged in some of the most important statements of evangelical engagement, including his decision to sign the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document in 1994. He is perhaps the most influential evangelical theologian to call for stronger ties between evangelicals and Roman Catholics, but he believes that unity should not come at the expense of orthodox doctrine. Nonetheless, his advocacy of this ecumenism has brought sharp criticism from some conservatives.

Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version of the Bible (2001), an Evangelical revision of the Revised Standard Version of 1971. He is a frequent contributor to and an executive editor of Christianity Today.

Earth Day. . .

and the Christian life.

A balanced and wise piece on the Flourish blog, which concludes:

Instead of being optimistic, we–as Christians–are hopeful. And our hope is foundational to every day of our lives, not just Earth Day. So let us celebrate this day in recognition for what it means in the history of our relationship with God’s earth. But let us also celebrate Thanksgiving in gratitude for the bounty of God’s creation and the love that can occur between strangers. Let us celebrate Christmas in acknowledgment that not only is Christ our brother, savior, and redeemer, but he is also the One through whom all things were made. Let us celebrate–on each nameless day of our lives, on our birthdays, at family get-togethers, and at church–the goodness of God’s creation with hope, joy, and hard work.

We are hopeful because the earth is the Lord’s–a fact that remains unconstrained by holidays or public awareness or sin–and that is why we care for his creation every day.

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it …”

– Psalm 24:1

Front Porch Virtues

Do you have a front porch? I mean a real front porch, where you can greet neighbors and sit with a friend who stops by for a visit. No, neither do I.

We need more porches to restore a more American and even biblical way of life, says architect Bill Randall writing at the Flourish Blog. He writes:

Porches also are a wonderful way to interact with our neighbors. To sit on the front porch in a chair or a swing, sipping iced tea or lemonade in our present “cool of the day” still holds an amazing appeal to us. To be able to greet our neighbors and have a short chat fosters that very spiritual concept called community.

While our connection to nature could be part of the first great commandment of loving God, our connection to those in our immediate community could be part of that second commandment to love our neighbor. Do we really love our neighbor? Do we even KNOW our neighbor? We’ve fallen out of touch with those around us as the “place” of our front porch has waned and one of our primary means of connecting with our neighbors has faded.

Three inventions in the mid 20th century had an almost fatal effect on the front porch and our connection to our neighbors: the automobile, the air conditioner, and the television.


[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#39 Andy Miller. Happy Salvationist b.1923

Until a deck collapsed at a suburban Atlanta outing in 1995–injuring a number of Salvation Army leaders, including the man they still call Commissioner–Andrew S. Miller bounced with the exuberance and optimism of young man, belying his 80 plus years. Andy Miller is a renowned former leader of The Salvation Army in the U.S., a denomination best known for its quaint Christmastime bells and kettles, the sum of which—-together with other fundraising—-makes the “Army” among the nation’s largest and wealthiest charities. Its ubiquitous social services are highly respected in America and around the world and, while its tightly organized personnel live modestly and its use of funds is above board, the group raises more than $3 billion annually and has U.S. assets worth more than $10 billion, buoyed by its church buildings, community centers, and alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers.

Few people know that the Army is primarily and at its core an evangelical church in the holiness tradition, with 1,200 congregations (called corps) in the U.S. It is a deeply conservative expression of Methodism, begun by disaffected Methodist minister William Booth and his wife Catherine in 1865 as an evangelistic outreach to the down and out in English cities. Its uniformed leaders rarely rise to the level of public recognition because at every level, from most junior officer (minister) to the international general, its leaders are rotated every few years. It’s a discipline introduced by Booth to guard against complacency. U.S. leaders (called national commanders) are no different, but in the modern era one national commander, Miller, stands above others because of his effervescent personality and his uncanny ability to connect “Sallies” to the outside world.

Andy Miller’s two strongest contributions to the evangelical movement: He is part of the leadership that has pursued a seamless connection of the church’s evangelistic and social service heritage. And he bucked the separatist impulse of the most conservative churches and reached out to secular leaders–at the same time he stroked the hair and provided food and shelter for the poorest of the poor.

Miller, who held many positions during his 47-year career and served as the national commander from 1986-89, made it a priority to maintain the church’s historic connection of evangelism and social service. He resisted bifurcation of the church and insisted that its social ministry must be evangelistic and its evangelism must include a social service delivery system. “When we do it right,” Miller said, “you can’t tell the difference.”

This breadth was captured in The Salvation Army’s longtime slogan: “Soup, Soap, and Salvation. There is ongoing concern that the social will eclipse the spiritual, and today some in the church are concerned that the national command’s recent approval of the more secular slogan “Doing the Most Good,” may signal that slide. That worry is magnified because the social service effort is so large and the church body that meets in worship each week is relatively small in the U.S.

Although the The Salvation Army’s work can be found in nearly every region of the country and in communities large and small, its people—particularly its staff and clergy–are relatively insulated from both secular culture and the larger evangelical church. Salvationists have traditionally found their worship, social interaction, church conferences, even summer camping and recreation within the denomination, and adherents have traditionally found their marriage partners within the group. These trends have shifted in recent years and the U.S. membership is stagnant, even as giving has increased—bucking national trends.

In the midst of this insular subculture, Miller had an expansive tenure that introduced the church to the powerful and influential of his time. He had a commitment to bear witness about Christ with at least one person every day. After telling President Reagan about this in a meeting, Miller was called back to the White House several weeks later. The President wanted to tell the Salvationist leader that he had taken the opportunity to witness to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in a face-to-face meeting. In private, Gorbachev told Reagan that his grandmother had him baptized as a young boy and that she had told him about Jesus.

Miller found ways to befriend powerful men as easily as others. He was an usher at Robert Kennedy’s funeral because he met and formed a friendship with the former U.S. Attorney General while jogging on the streets of New York City.

“He is a Salvation Army original,” his biography reads,” and at the same time a symbol of the Army, keeping the Army true to the Army, to its birthright and mission. His life story is the miracle of a bush that burned with fire and yet was not consumed.”

God Observes “Everything is Mine Week”


AP Photo/Icelandi Coastguard

AP Photo/Icelandi Coastguard

Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images
Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images










An Alternative Observation of Earth Day

As parts of the nation prepare to observe Earth Day, it has occurred to me that we may be observing The Earth is Mine Week.  With a well-placed volcanic eruption, God may be accomplishing three things:


 1.       In the face of slow action by humankind, God temporarily addresses global warming with volcanic ash that may lower worldwide temperatures for a time. 

2.       To provide an example of how people can slow down for a few days, God closes European airspace, dramatically reducing  consumption (and the burning of fossil fuel) and helping people observe the Sabbath.  

3.       Makes a dramatic statement:  The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” Psalm  24:1. 



[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#5 Jimmy Carter. Born again President b. 1924

America had never had a presidential candidate, at least in the nation’s collective memory, utter the words: “I am a born-again Christian,” like the Georgia peanut farmer and Baptist Sunday school teacher Jimmy Carter did as he plied the towns of Iowa and the nation in an unlikely quest that resulted in his election as president. As a result of this bold declaration and public witness and the publication of Chuck Colson’s biographical account of his conversion, Born Again, Newsweek magazine declared 1976 the Year of the Evangelical.”

Jimmy Carter was different, and observers of his 1976 bid for the presidency readily recognized it. As a candidate, Carter spoke very openly and candidly about his faith, his commitment to Christ, his love for Scripture, and his desire to bring “a new spirit” to government. He quickly became a symbol of the rekindled religious and political vigor of American evangelicalism.

Carter said: “I’m a father and I’m a Christian; I’m a businessman and I’m a Christian; I’m a farmer and I’m a Christian; I’m a politician and I’m a Christian. The most important thing in my life beyond all else is Jesus Christ.”
Based on his Christian testimony and toothy optimism, I—like many other Christian belivers–supported Jimmy Carter in 1976 and delayed my final college work to become part of his Iowa campaign staff. I considered his election a harbinger of good will and healing for our nation, and marveled that such an outspoken Christian was sitting in the Oval Office.

As president, he continued to teach Sunday school, found occasions to share his faith with foreign leaders, readily admits in his post-presidential works that religion was an indispensable guide for his presidential behavior, and believes that Americans “have a responsibility to try to shape government so that it does exemplify the will of God.”

Regarding his frequent public displays of faith, church historian Martin Marty explained that Carter knows no other way to be. “Jimmy Carter is a public Christian…. It’s O.K. to be a private Christian in America, but he doesn’t know how to be a private Christian. Religion for him goes right to the streets, and he successfully relates his Sunday faith to his Monday world.”

My enthusiasm and optimism waned in the next four years, not because of any failure of presidential faith or moral fidelity, but because of a malaise that gripped the nation, Carter’s weakness during the Iran hostage crisis, and the fact that he never seemed to grasp the art of pulling the right levers of presidential power.

[After the campaign, the next time I was with Carter personally was during a Habitat for Humanity build in Chicago in the early 1990’s, when the odd couple of Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican Chuck Colson swung hammers together to build homes for four poor but worthy Chicago families. On the first day of the build, Carter and Colson appeared together on the Today show in a live feed from the construction site. When Jane Pauley asked Colson what it was like to team up with Carter, Colson responded (with his remarkable ability to produce on the moment quips): “The last time I worked with a President I got one-to-three years [his prison sentence for Watergate]; this time I just got hard labor.”]

Although Carter failed to retain his early support of many evangelicals and was defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1980, the transparency of his Christian testimony—regardless of his politics—further emboldened evangelicals who were moving deliberately toward a greater role in public life and political action. Carter’s race for the nomination and his election to the presidency established for many the arrival of evangelicals as a new force on the American scene.

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#40.Russ Reid. Fundraiser b.1935

Follow the money. When you do in the evangelical sector over the last generation, following the money that it took to launch and support many of the great ministries and missions and projects of the time, the trail would take you to and through the offices of a fast-talking Californian with a sparkle in his eyes and many new ideas for funding mission: Russ Reid.

For many today, Russ Reid is the name of the firm, with little notice that it is also the man who launched the firm and remains a fascinating study. Russ Reid is the founder and leader of the first of the large fund development agencies that became partners with Christian organizations, using direct response fundraising to find support for their work. Russ said: “There is no shortage of money, only a shortage of well-articulated causes.”

Russ Reid has helped articulate a lot of causes.

Originally he had trained for the ministry, but finally realized that he was more of a marketing guy than a pastor. In the late 1950s he went to work for Word Publishing in Waco, Texas. There he learned all about direct response through book-of-the-month clubs and by marketing books through direct mail. Along the way, he noticed some wonderful organizations doing great work to help others, but they didn’t know how to tell their own stories, or how to raise money.

Russ had a vision—to start a company that would help nonprofit organizations make a bigger difference in the world. He founded the Russ Reid Company in 1964, and Word Publishing became his first client. Later he moved the company to Park Ridge, Illinois, and worked with small ministries as he got up and running. In 1966, Russ was able to get a project from World Vision. At that time, World Vision was conducting projects around the world on an annual budget of about $5 million (today they’re approaching $2 billion in annual revenue).

In 1972, as his work with World Vision increased, Russ decided to move from Chicago to Arcadia, California, near World Vision’s Monrovia headquarters. At that time, the way World Vision acquired sponsors was by speaking at churches and showing a film about the plight of children in the developing world.

Russ had an idea. He approached World Vision EVP Ted Engstrom and proposed that they film Art Linkletter traveling around the world and meeting these children in need, bring that film back, and instead of going from church to church, put it on television.

Ted Engstrom got approval from the board for this expensive, risky project, and reportedly said to Russ afterwards, “What will we do if this doesn’t work?” Russ laughed and said, “Ted, we’ll have the most expensive church film in history.”

It did work, beyond expectations, and the World Vision television specials were born–the first major television fundraising of their kind. Many of followed, and Russ Reid has been involved with many of them.

Over the last 40 years, Russ Reid’s little company has grown from one guy with an idea about helping people who help people, to what is now the largest agency in the world exclusively devoted to helping nonprofit organizations grow.

Russ says: “Giving life and health and hope to children in poverty, to the homeless, to people with cancer is significant work. It’s life-changing work. For me, it’s part of what gets me up in the morning, excited about coming to work.”

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