Discipleship in the “Age of Authenticity”

Nov 10, 2014 | Trevin Wax

authenticityCharles Taylor describes our secular age as “the age of authenticity,” a description that could easily fit the dominant narrative of most Disney films. Watch how he defines the phrase:

I mean the understanding of life which emerges with the Romantic expressivism of the late-eighteenth century, that each one of us has his/her own way of realizing our humanity, and that it is important to find and live out one’s own, as against surrendering to conformity with a model imposed on us from outside, by society, or the previous generation, or religious or political authority (475).

Another good word for “authenticity” is non-conformity. The point of non-conformity is being true to yourself as opposed to whatever self others may want you to be true to. That’s why much of the drama in our culture of authenticity comes from the casting off of societal constraints. Note the four areas Taylor mentioned in his definition:

1. Imposition from Outside

No one can tell you what you should make of your life! Any identity that comes from outside you squelches your originality and authenticity. You can’t “find yourself,” “realize your potential,” “release your true self” and so on, unless you reject every model of life that doesn’t come from within. Furthermore, it is a betrayal of your identity to allow anyone or anything to shape you into something you are not. The most extreme version of this perspective is found in Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, an unabashed paean of praise to the unfettered ego, heralded by Oprah Winfrey as one of last decade’s greatest books.

2. Imposition from Society

Conformity to societal expectations must be resisted! What society thinks today may change, after all, but you as a person are unchangeable and must be allowed to express yourself in order for society to benefit from your unique essence. You are not what you are biologically, socially, morally, or culturally; you are what you want to be. You are whatever you want to express.

In the last two decades, casting off societal restraints has been evident most clearly in gender roles and identity. (The genderless experiment of Sweden is perhaps the most extreme form I have come across.) In this case, freedom is not in accepting “binary definitions” of male and female but in expanding the number of options for someone to “find” and “express” themselves.

3. Imposition from the Previous Generation

In some cultures, continuity with the past is a sign of wisdom, the ability to draw from the reserves of history in order to make wise choices today. Institutions and the expectations that grow around them are cherished, sometimes to a fault, but they are seen as valuable nonetheless.

The Age of Authenticity, however, finds much of its dramatic flair in innovation and experimentation, breaking free from “the way we’ve always done it” in favor of building a new world that maximizes individual flourishing of expression. We’ve come to the point we expect young people to go through a season of rebellion against “the way their parents are,” and in some circles, we equate maturity with the willingness to question and cast aspersion on whatever has come before. You express yourself by venturing out on your own, by blazing your own path, and by deriding the past generation’s expression.

4. Imposition from Religion and Politics

The church and state are common foes in the battle to express oneself at all costs. Religion imposes order by appealing to divine authority. Christianity goes so far as to call for self-mortification, the dying to oneself and living to God that demands the putting of others first, over one’s own desires. Political authority can also limit the freedom of self-expression, which is one reason why younger generations tend to be libertarian when it comes to governmental regulation and simultaneously advocates of big government in areas where self-expression may be at risk.

How the Age of Authenticity Alters Our Vision

What is most intriguing about the Age of Authenticity’s resistance to these four spheres of outside influence is how it impacts our view of these spheres, even subconsciously.

For example, many who see self-expression as fundamentally important to humanity are unlikely to reject religious or spiritual authority outright. They are more likely to recast religion in terms of enabling the kind of authentic self-expression they believe to be most valuable.

In other words, the Age of Authenticity isn’t likely to empty churches; it’s likely instead to fill them with people who believe the primary purpose of religious observance is to facilitate “finding yourself” and “chasing your dreams.” It’s no wonder that the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen and others finds such a large audience in this environment.

Within this frame of mind, sinfulness is no longer falling short of the glory of God, but the falling short of your own potential. Sin is failing to be true to yourself. You choose a church based on how it will help you discover and be true to yourself. The smorgasbord of spirituality is there for the taking.

Or consider how we might recast political authority. The Age of Authenticity doesn’t lead to anarchists who want to bring down the government. It leads instead to a generation of people who rely on the government to ensure their “rights,” their “freedom” to protect from “non-discrimination” and foster “respect” – all terms which are good and helpful but which, in Taylor’s estimation, get deployed as “argument-stopping universals, without any consideration of the where and how of their application to the case at hand” (479). “Freedom of choice” becomes absolute, as if every option must be inherently equal and beneficial, and we are left without any real discussion of what the choices entail or what their consequences may be.

What about the Church?

Where does this leave the church? Progressive churches are more likely to celebrate the Age of Authenticity as progress. Conservative churches are more likely to chalk up the changes to selfishness.

But the Age of Authenticity is in the water, so to speak. It’s the air we breathe. That’s why, ironically, both progressive and conservative churches cast themselves as reinforcers of the “choice” their members have made in adopting their religious vision of the world. Whether you choose a conservative or liberal church, you are still choosing, which is one of the primary ways in which the Age of Authenticity manifests itself.

When I consider this cultural environment, I wonder if, perhaps, we have a unique opportunity to do something different. Here are two ways the church can make a difference.

Picking Up the Pieces

On the one hand, when the Age of Authenticity raises the stakes this high, it makes one’s individuality the most important aspect of life. It creates a sense of angst, an underlying fear that leads to terrible decisions. How many middle-aged couples live on Facebook, watching their friends lead (supposedly) terrific and exciting lives and then decide they are missing out, that their marital vows are too constraining and must be cast aside for personal fulfillment?

Case in point. A recent story online featured a woman who mourned her husband’s adultery and what it cost her and her children. The response was vicious. The woman who shared her story (not the man) was the one vilified online. Why? Because her husband had left her for another man. In defending the husband, the online commenters were lifting up the Age of Authenticity and self-expression as the ultimate good before all else must bow. It is the good for which everything, including wife and children and happiness, must be sacrificed. It seemed incomprehensible that a family’s stability should come before sexual fulfillment.

These stories are not uncommon. The church’s response must be to pick up the pieces left in the wake of Authenticity’s tidal wave of sadness. When “being true to yourself” tramples everything else, broken hearts litter the path. The church must present a gospel for the broken and disillusioned.

Proclaiming the Gospel from Outside

On the other hand, we should be the kind of people who have good news to offer in an age where “gospel” is “self-actualization.” The whole idea of discovering and being true to yourself can be rather exhausting. The narrative paints a picture of exhilaration in casting off society’s restraints and doing whatever it takes to be true to yourself.

But what if the self you are true to is one that no one else wants to be with? What if the self you become is dastardly in its final form, not beautiful and attractive? What if, like Elsa in Frozen, you “let it go,” “turn away and slam the door,” only to find yourself in a lonely ice palace of your own making, a palace that is also a prison?

The church’s response must be to proclaim a gospel that comes from outside ourselves – no matter how countercultural this may seem. When people in our culture discover how exhausting it is to try to be “true to themselves,” when looking further and further inward eventually shows them they haven’t the resources to transform their own lives, the church must be ready to break in with good news that life change isn’t mustered up from within but granted through grace from without.

We are to challenge the narrative that happiness is found solely in self-expression. The biblical view of the self is that we are broken, twisted, and sinful. The self is something that needs redemption, not expression. And this redemption takes place within a redeemed community, not as spiritual individuals piecing together our own strategy for personal spirituality and fulfillment, but walking together with people who shape and form us into the image of Christ.

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Worth a Look 11.10.14

Nov 10, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo. $2.99.

In 1969, her father, Robert Nichols, moved to Sellerstown, North Carolina, to serve as a pastor. There he found a small community eager to welcome him—with one exception. Glaring at him from pew number seven was a man obsessed with controlling the church. Determined to get rid of anyone who stood in his way, he unleashed a plan of terror that was more devastating and violent than the Nichols family could have ever imagined.

Anthony Esolen – Who Will Rescue the Lost Sheep of the Lonely Revolution?

It will be said that the one—the unrepentant or semi-repentant sinner, the one who wants to have the faith on his own terms—is “marginalized,” a word I detest, but which may serve my purposes this once. If adults in immoral sexual relationships are “marginalized,” Lord, let me speak up now for people who do not even make it to the margins, for the poorest of the poor, for people who have no advocate at all.

Steven Lee – 5 Common Small Group Myths (and the Truth to Help Transform Your Group):

Whether your small groups are mainly to help believers grow or mainly missional, here are five small group myths that I’ve encountered over the years that need correcting.

Derwin Gray – Stuff First-Century Christians Fought About:

The first major church dispute actually was over how fast multiethnic churches were growing outside of Jerusalem. These ethnically diverse congregations were blowing up the mental and cultural circuits of the Jewish believers in the holy city.

Matt Capps on The Long Awaited King:

While the human experience leaves us longing for the perfect rule of a perfect king, the Bible provides us with a more meaningful, hope-filled understanding of true kingdom reign. In the Bible, kings are to reign over every domain of life in their land; they are to have real authority to be used for the good of the people. And while God rules sovereignly over the universe, in the Bible, kings are called to mediate God’s justice to the people. In other words, the kings of earth are to rule as God’s vice-regents, His under-kings. Nevertheless, even the promising kings of the Old Testament left the people longing for a greater king.

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Jesus Christ, The Sinner’s Friend

Nov 09, 2014 | Trevin Wax

carav10Jesus Christ, the sinner’s Friend,
Loves His people to the end;
And that they may safe abide,
He’s the Rock in which they hide.

As a rock, He guards them well
From the rage of sin and hell.
Such a rock is Christ to me,
I am safe, though thousands flee!

Sheltered in His wounded side,
Now no ill can me betide;
From the tempest covered o’er;
One with Him for evermore.

- William Gadsby

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The Holy Spirit in Your Marriage

Nov 08, 2014 | Trevin Wax

meaning-of-marriage1Tim & Kathy Keller:

Without the help of the Spirit, without a continual refilling of your soul’s tank with the glory and love of the Lord, such submission to the interests of the other is virtually impossible to accomplish for any length of time without becoming resentful. I call this “love economics.” You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm.

If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love “in the bank” to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment.

To have a marriage that sings requires a Spirit-created ability to serve, to take yourself out of the center, to put the needs of others ahead of your own. The Spirit’s work of making the gospel real to the heart weakens the self-centeredness in the soul. It is impossible for us to make major headway against self-centeredness and move into a stance of service without some kind of supernatural help.

The deep happiness that marriage can bring, then, lies on the far side of sacrificial service in the power of the Spirit. That is, you only discover your own happiness after each of you has put the happiness of your spouse ahead of your own, in a sustained way, in response to what Jesus has done for you.

– from The Meaning of Marriage

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Know Your Southern Baptists: Timothy George

Nov 07, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Timothy GeorgeName: Timothy George

Age: 64 (January 9, 1950)

Why you’ve heard of him: George is one of the premiere evangelical scholars in the U.S.

Position: He is the founding dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University.

Previous: George has served in academia, including 10 years at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and churches in Georgia, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Alabama.

Education: A.B. from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and Th.D. from Harvard University

Books: He is a prolific author, regularly contributing to scholarly journals and having written more than 20 books including: Reading Scripture with the Reformers, The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking: A Student’s Guide (with David Dockery), Our Sufficiency Is of God: Essays on Preaching in Honor of Gardner C. Taylor (with James Earl Massey and Robert Smith, Jr.), and Amazing Grace: God’s Pursuit, Our Response. His Theology of the Reformers is the standard textbook on Reformation theology in many schools and seminaries and has been translated into multiple languages.

Why he’s important: In addition to overseeing the divinity school and teaching church history and doctrine, he is chairman of the board of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, chairs the Doctrine and Christian Unity Commission of the Baptist World Alliance, is a life advisory trustee of Wheaton College and is active in Evangelical-Roman Catholic Church dialogue.

He serves as senior theological advisor for Christianity Today, and is on the editorial advisory boards of First Things, Harvard Theological Review and Books & Culture. George is the general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, a 28-volume series of sixteenth-century exegetical comments.

Notable Quotes:

Our sense of the grace of God and His omnipotent love is the foundation of biblical worship.

Preachers of the gospel are heralds of another world, charged to deliver a message they did not invent, a message of great urgency addressed to every single person in the world.

To discharge this duty faithfully requires both diligent study of the Word of God, and also the kind of wisdom that comes only through the hard work of listening, praying, serving, loving, and representing the One in whose name we speak and for whose sake we do this work.

There is no such thing as a disembodied theology divorced from the mess and muck of real life.

A good historian will allow the sources to speak in all of their stubborn particularity. Homogenized history is falsified history.

Missions is rooted in the gracious, eternal purpose of the triune God.

Others in the “Know Your Southern Baptists” Series:

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My 14 Favorite Quotes from Hays’ “Moral Vision of the New Testament”

Nov 06, 2014 | Trevin Wax

006063796XWe’ve come to the end of our blog series on Richard Hays’ The Moral Vision of the New TestamentIn case you’re late to the party, feel free to work your way through these summary posts. They are no substitute for working through Hays’ book on its own, but they will give you a good overview of his approach to New Testament ethics.

14 Favorite Quotes

As we close out this series, I’d like to provide fourteen of my favorite quotes from the book. Enjoy!

1. On the Limits of a Book

“The living out of the New Testament cannot occur in a book; it can happen only in the life of the Christian community” (7).

2. On the Purpose of Theology

“Theology is for Paul never merely a speculative exercise; it is always a tool for constructing community” (18).

3. On the Church’s Role in the Story

“The church is to find its identity and vocation by recognizing its role in the cosmic drama of God’s reconciliation of the world to himself” (19).

4. On the Eschatological Church

“The old age is passing away, the new age has appeared in Christ, and the church stands at the juncture between them” (20).

5. On Hope and Realism in Spiritual Growth

“To live faithfully in the time between the times is to walk a tightrope of moral discernment, claiming neither too much nor too little for God’s transforming power within the community of faith” (27).

6. On the Necessity of the Church

“One cannot follow Jesus, according to Matthew, except by becoming part of the community that he trained to carry out his mission in the world” (97).

7. On Ethics in Community

“The coherence of the New Testament’s ethical mandate will come into focus only when we understand that mandate in ecclesial terms, when we seek God’s will not by asking first, ‘What shall I do,’ but ‘What should we do?'” (197)

8. On the Strange Beauty of Christian Eschatology

“The eschatological framework of life in Christ imparts to Christian existence its strange temporal sensibility, its odd capacity for simultaneous joy amidst suffering and impatience with things as they are” (198).

9. On Reducing Love to “Inclusiveness”

“The biblical story teaches us that God’s love cannot be reduced to ‘inclusiveness': authentic love calls us to repentance, discipline, sacrifice, and transformation” (202).

10. On the Inherent Cultural Rootedness of Scripture and Obedience

“The effort to distinguish timeless truth in the New Testament from culturally conditioned elements is wrongheaded and impossible” (299).

11. On Using Our Moral Imaginations

“The temporal gap between the first-century Christians and Christians at the end of the twentieth century can be bridged only by a spark of imagination” (302).

12. On Obedience as Prerequisite to True Knowledge

“Knowledge of the will of God follows the community’s submission and transformation. Why? Because until we see the text lived, we cannot begin to conceive what it means. Until we see God’s power at work among us, we do not know what we are reading. Thus, the most crucial hermeneutical task is the formation of communities seeking to live under the Word” (306).

13. On Demythologizing Sex

“Sexual gratification is not a sacred right, and celibacy is not a fate worse than death” (401).

14. On Countering a Self-Gratifying Society

“In the midst of a culture that worships self-gratification, and in a church that often preaches a false Jesus who panders to our desires, those who seek the narrow way of obedience have a powerful word to speak” (403).

What quotes did you underline? Which ones stood out to you? If you read along with us, please share some of them in the comments.

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Worth a Look 11.6.14

Nov 06, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: Why Cities Matter: To God, the Culture, and the Church by Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard. $0.99.

Instead of retreating from or taking from our cities, here is a call to make the cities our home, to take good care of them, and to participate in God’s kingdom-building work in the urban centers of our world.

Alan Noble has a good article in The Atlantic explaining why, after the Houston sermon debacle, evangelicals are wary of the government:

Pluralism is easy when all members of a community share the same basic beliefs, only then it’s not really pluralism. The outcry and initial impasse in Houston is an example of what may happen when groups with profoundly different beliefs struggle to live together peacefully. This case also shows the deep concern the evangelical community has about secularization and what it might mean for the community’s freedoms in the future.

Books and Culture’s creative review of Rob Bell’s new book on marriage:

The following is an edited transcript from the Summer 2011 editorial meeting of the Shadow Government of Religious Publishing, known in the industry as ShGoRP. The acronym rhymes with “corp.” as in “corporation,” which is probably just an accident.

The Might and Majesty of Meekness:

Authentic Christians reflect Christ’s character in many different ways—from their love of truth to their pursuit of justice. But there’s something singularly powerful about the quality we sometimes call meekness, this forgiving disposition. According to Jonathan Edwards, meekness possesses and governs their lives—“it is their true and proper character.”

This is a fascinating article is from a gay man who has switched his position and now opposes gay marriage:

What makes this intriguing is that, until a few years ago, I was outspoken in support of same-sex marriage. Senator Portman’s about-face left me scratching my head for a long time. How did the two of us start at opposite ends of the spectrum and then end up landing in each other’s former position? Somewhere along the line, our paths had crisscrossed, just as mine presumably had with President Obama, Institute for American Values president David Blankenhorn, and even former Vice President Dick Cheney (whose daughter, Mary, is a lesbian).

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Is The Era of Mass Evangelism Over? Why We Shouldn’t Rule Out Another Billy Graham

Nov 05, 2014 | Trevin Wax

IgnitingTheFireEvangelistic rallies are behind us. The future is local, personal witness. 

So goes the common wisdom in many evangelical circles. Greg Laurie and Luis Palau are exceptions to the rule, but evangelistic meetings and revival services are in the past. Right?

Not so fast.

Jake Hanson’s forthcoming book, Igniting the Fire: The Movements and Mentors who Shaped Billy Grahamzooms in on Graham’s formative, early years. 65 years ago this month, Graham burst onto the national scene at his Los Angeles crusade. Hanson’s work gives us the back story.

How did Billy Graham become Billy Graham? 

What were people saying about the days of mass evangelism back in the 1940’s?

And what if an era of evangelistic services is ahead of us, not just a relic of the past?

I invited Jake to the blog to answer some questions about the importance of Graham’s upbringing, the significance of the Los Angeles crusade, and the future of mass evangelism.

Trevin Wax: Billy Graham stepped onto the national stage 65 years ago this month, when the Los Angeles crusade began and then continued for weeks beyond its original vision. What was the significance of this crusade for Graham’s future ministry and for the future of our nation?

Jake Hanson: It’s really fascinating looking back on the 1949 Los Angeles crusade. It was a watershed moment, not just for Billy Graham, but for American Christianity. It wasn’t the first of his evangelistic meetings—those happened over ten years earlier. But they were the first meetings that brought Billy Graham into the national consciousness when newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst began coverage of the campaign in his network of newspapers throughout major cities in the country.

We get a glimpse of the significance of this coverage with the first line of the article from November 2, 1949, “Old-time religion is sweeping the City of Angels with an evangelistic show overshadowing even Billy Sunday” (emphasis added). The mantle of the American evangelist was being passed to Billy Graham at Los Angeles.

There was this sense among American Christians at the time that God had provided our nation with evangelistic leaders from the very beginning—from Jonathan Edwards/George Whitefield in the 18th century, to Charles Finney in the mid-19th century, to D.L. Moody in the late 19th century, and then to Billy Sunday in the early 20th century.  By 1949, Billy Sunday had been dead for almost fifteen years, and the peak of his ministry ended several years before that.  Many believed that this type of mass evangelism was going to die a slow death with the passing of Billy Sunday.

But among many Christians of the day, there was still this longing for God to continue to bless our nation (and the world) with an evangelistic leader. There is an eerily prophetic example of this in the valedictorian address at Billy’s graduation from the Florida Bible Institute in 1940. With Billy Graham unwittingly sitting in the audience that momentous spring day, the speaker, Vera Resue declared, “The time is ripe for another Luther, Wesley, Moody, —–. There is room for another name in this list.”

So the Los Angeles crusade brought a lot of hope to Christians who had longed for and prayed that the Lord would raise up another name for that list when they opened their newspapers in November sixty-five years ago.

Trevin Wax: In writing about how Billy Graham became Billy Graham, you point to the evangelistic environment he experienced in three schools: Bob Jones University, Florida Bible Institute, and Wheaton College. What was this evangelistic environment like, and why did it matter?

Jake Hanson: Both Bob Jones, Sr. the founder of Bob Jones College/University, as well as W.T. Watson, the founder of the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College of Florida), saw themselves, especially in the 1930s and 40s, as evangelists first, and educators second.  The founding of both of the schools came out of a need they perceived in their evangelistic ministries.

The impact that Bob Jones had on Billy’s vision for evangelism often gets overlooked because of the tectonic rupture between the two that began in the late 1950s and was never repaired. But in his early days, Billy Graham regularly looked to Bob Jones for guidance and wisdom. As a student for only a semester at Bob Jones College in 1936, Graham later said, “It was [at Bob Jones College] that I first learned about evangelism.”  He was able to see first-hand a veteran evangelist at work as a student there.

The Florida Bible Institute likewise had an evangelist as its head, but at the Institute, there was a particular focus on giving students opportunities for evangelistic ministry. So, not only were they watching their leader do evangelism, almost as soon as students arrived on campus, they were sent out to street corners, trailer parks, camps and churches to find, use and hone their gifts.

Wheaton was a little bit different in that while evangelism was still prized, there was probably a little bit less of an emphasis on it. I think Wheaton offered something different from the other two schools that helped Billy as an evangelist. In particular, I think it opened up a desire to understand a wider range of disciplines, and to understand people in particular. (He chose Anthropology as his major.) But even if the emphasis was less on evangelism, he was still going to churches with Gospel Teams and holding some of his own evangelistic meetings while he was a student.

Trevin Wax: If you had to choose the three most influential mentors and friends in Graham’s life during the formative years of 1934-43, who would you pick? 

Jake Hanson: It’s really hard to pick just three! Billy Graham had a fantastic group of mentors and friends who invested in him throughout his life.

But I would begin with John Minder, who was the Dean at the Florida Bible Institute while Billy was a student. It was Minder who gave Billy his very first preaching opportunity in a small Florida church; and when Billy came away from his early preaching experiences with self-doubt, he encouraged him to continue on; and finally, when Billy’s heart was broken by a love interest, Minder offered him a shoulder to cry on and encouragement to trust in the Lord. Minder was one of those mentors in Billy’s life who does not seem to have continued to really become an advisor as others would—even though Billy considered him one of his “very best friends” in 1943. But this early impact on Billy’s preaching set an important ministry foundation.

The second mentor I would choose is Dr. V. Raymond Edman who was the president at Wheaton College.  Edman took Billy under his wing, sensitive to the fact that Billy was in culture shock coming to the Northern school as a thoroughly Southern-bred young man hundreds of miles away from home. Edman gave him ministry opportunities, including his first regular church preaching at the Wheaton Gospel Tabernacle. But more than that, Edman was a gentle encourager who prayed regularly with Billy. Their relationship continued to grow, especially in the 1950s as Billy’s ministry took off, and he began to face severe criticism from fundamentalists. Edman prayed with him when they were together, and wrote him letters when they were apart, encouraging him to keep his “Knees down! Chin up!”

Finally, to this list I would add Dawson Trotman who was the founder of the Navigators and who Billy met while a student at Wheaton. Trotman was a man deeply skeptical of mass evangelism. He believed evangelists were making converts, but failing to make disciples. But he loved Billy. And their relationship, I think, demonstrates how God can use the different gifts in the church as a sort of puzzle that fits together to make a beautiful picture.

Trotman, unlike the other mentors I have mentioned, was at the Los Angeles crusade (he lived in Southern California), counseling those who responded to Billy’s invitation at the end of the meetings. Billy saw in Trotman a man with a vision and gifts that he did not himself have—the gift of what was then called ‘follow-up,’ or discipling the new believers. So in 1951, Billy asked him to create a program to adequately follow-up and disciple the hundreds of people who were making decisions for Christ in crusades around the country which he did until his tragic death in 1956. But the program he put in place remained for the next half-century.

Trevin Wax: The confidence and conviction Graham displayed at the Los Angeles crusade didn’t come easily. You write about the internal struggles Graham faced and his growing commitment to the veracity and power of God’s Word. How were Graham’s distinctive theological convictions shaped during these formative years?

Jake Hanson: Billy Graham had been shaped in the ethos of American fundamentalism. But there was a fracture within fundamentalism in the 1940s that was growing into an outright rupture in the 1950s. In 1948, as the Vice-president of Youth for Christ, he attended the organizational meetings of the liberal-leaning World Council of Churches as an observer. This was seen by many fundamentalists as support for the organization (which it was not). Disgruntled fundamentalists were trying to shout him down during some of his cooperative evangelistic meetings which must have been a shock to him. To add to that, one of his close friends and fellow-preacher, Chuck Templeton, was calling him naïve and “fifty years behind the times” in his thinking and theology.

Templeton, in particular, was casting doubt on the authority of the Bible—the very book that Billy had committed himself to preach. Billy’s very foundation at this point was shaken to the core, and by the time the Los Angeles crusade was about to start, he had to make a choice. He either had to go with his friend, Chuck Templeton and resign from his ministry, or he had to commit himself by faith to believe and trust in the Word of God. The whole of the ministry of Billy Graham rested on this one question—the authority of the Word of God.  And of course, in one of his several late-night prayer times on important decisions, he committed himself to accept the Bible as God’s Word by faith.

This is one of the several events in Billy’s life for which you couldn’t craft a better story-line. After he surrendered himself to God and His Word, he held the Los Angeles crusade with that confidence you noted, and it launched his evangelistic ministry into the national consciousness.

Trevin Wax: You make a point in your book that there is a similar void today as there was in the 1940s. What similarities and differences do you see with evangelism today compared with 1949?

Jake Hanson: I have heard people say that the era of mass evangelism is over, and that we are in an era of personal, one-to-one evangelism. But that is exactly what some were saying leading up to the ministry of Billy Graham. That’s not to say that we need to do 1950s evangelism in the 21st century, but I don’t think we need to sacrifice one biblical method of evangelism for another biblical method. And I don’t think it is fair to 1950s evangelism to say that nobody then was doing personal evangelism.

But one of the major differences I see between today and the 1940s is that today we lack some of the emphasis and infrastructure for evangelism. We do some other things really well—apologetics, engaging with the culture, etc. But I don’t think it is wrong to hope for and pray for more evangelists for today. In fact, Jesus commands it: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest!”

When I was doing my research for this book, I came across an interview with one of Graham’s associates, and a man who personally impacted me, Lorne Sanny.  He said that when evangelists come to study the ministry of Billy Graham, that they should not focus so much on his later established ministry, but on his early fledgling ministry. Billy Graham worked very hard to become an evangelist who preached to millions around the world. The crowds did not come easily.

And what I found in researching for my book is that the ministry of Billy Graham is not just about Billy Graham. It is about thousands, and even millions, of committed believers around the world who wanted to support the ministry of evangelism. And they did so by praying, by supporting, by mentoring, and by using their gifts to support the ministry of evangelism.

I wonder if it is not time for us to start to pivot to the future and to lay the foundation for what God wants to do for this generation. That’s my hope and prayer.

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Worth a Look 11.5.14

Nov 05, 2014 | Trevin Wax

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3$0.99.

The third and final volume begins with Lewis, already a household name from his BBC radio broadcasts and popular spiritual books, on the cusp of publishing his most famous and enduring book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which would ensure his immortality in the literary world.

Trillia Newbell – Bearers of God’s Image:

There is no one walking the earth who is not in need of the gospel. We are a part of humanity, each one of us heading toward either heaven or hell. It takes the power of the gospel to transform an image-bearer’s heart of stone and bring it into worship and delight of God. The only way for a heart to be aflame for God is through the pursuing, saving grace of God, which takes our hearts and transforms them from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh (Ezek. 36:26). The Christian who understands his nature before God is eager to share with his fellow man.

Ultrasound Innovation May Change Abortion Debate:

An unlikely factor may be about to change the abortion debate: technology. According to MIT’s Technology Review, entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg has just raised a million dollars from investors like Stanford University to start making a new portable ultrasound machine.

Andy McLean – 3 Reasons to Prioritize Scripture in Student Ministry:

How do we reason with our students, as well as ourselves, that we should prioritize our time, schedules, and our lives around God’s Word? Why, in the midst of the ever-increasing demands of life, should we place God’s Word at the center of it all? Let me suggest at least three ways as to why we should value time in God’s Word, showing why it is important for students both now and for their future.

Francis Schaeffer “Indispensable” to the SBC:

To some it may seem strange that an international Presbyterian apologist and analyst of pop culture would take such interest in a Baptist controversy over biblical inerrancy.

But to Schaeffer it made perfect sense.

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