Saturday, November 27, 2010

The unknown "uncommon" Christian . . . my Boss, the once-unknown Jewish carpenter from Nazareth . . . Ordinary Pastors Project

Are you an obscure and unknown "nobody" living to honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ?

Does hardly anyone know your name as you say along with James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) and from the depth of your very being/soul, "None but Christ; all for Christ" (the catch phrase of Uncommon Christian Ministries)?

Like J. B. Taylor sought to be and encouraged those converted to Christ under his ministry to be, so are you striving to be an "uncommon Christian"--defined by Taylor as an "eminently holy, self-denying, cross-bearing, Bible, everyday" Christian? Yet in your striving, are you off, under or not even on the radar that is your local neighborhood or that is popular American Evangelicalism?

Is your Christian-themed blog not part of the Top 100 Church Blogs? Are your books ranked 3,014,783 and 3,291,944 with Bestsellers Rank (such are the rankings of my An Uncommon Christian and Of Intense Brightness)?

If so, may the Lord bless you as you are among the majority of Christians throughout the ages and have the privilege of being able to identify more intimately with the once-obscure and unknown first-century Jewish carpenter from Nazareth (Matthew 13:55). The Lord Jesus' public ministry lasted about three years while his work as a carpenter lasted for about the first 30 years of his life.

Whether fame and notoriety come our way or not, may this not be our life's ambition. Such ambition is sin and the Lord will not bless it. The Lord blesses obedience. He blesses when His people make Him their true Boss; their Boss above all bosses. If such obedience leads to your name being in bright lights, on most-visited blog lists and bestseller lists, and being invited to speak at conferences, so be it. May His name be praised. If not, so be it. May His name be praised.

Please join me in living intentionally and intensely for the Lord no matter what the consequences and however large or small the sphere of influence He gives us. "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (Luke 17:10).

Joe Carter's recent blog entry "Note to Young Evangelicals: You Can't All Be Elite" provides a wise observation about today's younger generation. On the First Things blog, Carter writes (November 12, 2010):
Matt Anderson makes a very astute observation about the younger generation of evangelicals:
Here’s my hypothesis as to why young evangelicals tend to be drawn toward Randian libertarianism or Obama-style pragmatic liberalism: we think of ourselves as elites, even though most of us aren’t. This is particularly true of white, college-educated younger evangelicals who went off to Wheaton and Biola, and who are the only young evangelicals the media ever seems to talk about.
Our dissatisfaction with the mainstream evangelical populism we grew up in makes us particularly susceptible to either top-down statism or ubermensch libertarianism. Obama or Ron Paul, Jim Wallis or Ayn Rand. Both appeal to our elite aspirations, as in the former we can politically engineer society to bring about the Kingdom and in the latter we get to be captains of industry.
Exactly. And, like many others of their generation, they think they should be able to take an advance now on their future potential. Since it’s inevitable (so they believe) that they’ll be successful writers/pundits/leaders, etc., we old Gen X and Baby Boomer geezers should just step aside and let them run the show. They are the ones they’ve been waiting for.

The fact that they aren’t qualified for such roles doesn’t seem to daunt them in the least. They have energy and ambition and opinions of their own. What else could they possibly need?

The problem is not just that such an attitude is off-putting (though it definitely is obnoxious) but rather that it prevents young talented evangelicals from adequately preparing to live up to their elite aspirations. They need to spend many years (ideally between ten to fifteen) in preparation and service to others before they can fully grasp how the world works, much less how they can fix it.

Of course, being told they need to gain wisdom and experience before they can be truly effective is the last thing any young person wants to hear. But young evangelicals should humbly consider the example of our Lord: If the savior of the world saw fit to toil in working-class obscurity for thirty years before embarking on his cosmos-changing mission, it probably won’t hurt you to spend a bit more time forming your intellect and character before you’re ready to make your mark on the culture.

Relatedly, U.S.-based The Gospel Coalition has recently begun (September 2010) the Ordinary Pastors Project.

The project is inspired by D.A. Carson's book about his father entitled Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson (Crossway, 2008).

Click here (Matt B. Redmond) and here (Justin Taylor) for more information and how you can give an online testimony about your beloved "ordinary pastor."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization . . . USA's Mission America Coalition . . . James Brainerd Taylor on evangelism

The Third International Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization took place in Cape Town, South Africa, October 17-24, 2010. It was held in collaboration with the World Evangelical Alliance (est. 1846).

"Perhaps the widest and most diverse gathering of Christians ever held in the history of the Church," Cape Town 2010 (Lausanne III) "drew 4,000 selected participants from 198 nations. Organizers extended its reach into over 650 GlobaLink sites in 91 countries and drew 100,000 unique visits to its web site from 185 countries during the week of the Congress."

For a report of the historic event and its document "The Cape Town Commitment: A Declaration of Belief and a Call to Action," click here. Also, read here attendee and New Testament scholar Darrell Bock's blog entry concerning his reflections.

To view videos of most of the sessions, including John Piper's exposition of Ephesians 3 (see World Faiths: Plenary I, October 20), click here.

The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization is "a worldwide movement that mobilizes evangelical leaders to collaborate for world evangelization." Lausanne I--LCWE's first International Congress on World Evangelization--was held in 1974 in Lausanne, Switzerland. Lausanne II was held in 1989 in Manila, Philippines.

In 1974, LCWE produced The Lausanne Covenant, one of the most influential documents in modern Evangelical Christianity. Click here to read the document in various languages.

Mission America Coalition, National Association of Evangelicals & UCM

Since its founding in 2007, Uncommon Christian Ministries (UCM) has been a member of LCWE's American affiliate, Mission America Coalition: Uniting Christians for Evangelism and Revival. Begun in 1995, leaders from 81 denominations, 350-plus ministries and dozens of ministry networks have been involved in MAC. Some members of the coalition's staff and national committee were among the 400 U.S. delegates at Lausanne III. MAC's Chairmam/CEO Paul Cedar wrote an endorsement for my 2008 edited anthology Of Intense Brightness: The Spirituality of Uncommon Christian James Brainerd Taylor.

As a follow-up to the Congress, MAC is co-sponsoring a leadership consultation forum in Orlando, Florida, April 4-7, 2011. For more information about "From Cape Town 2010 to Orlando 2011 . . . and the Future: Accelerating the Church toward the Great Commission," see MAC's website. Among others, the forum is also being sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals as NAE also sent representatives to Cape Town 2010. Both MAC and I individually (as founder of UCM) are members of NAE.

James Brainerd Taylor

The Princeton University and Yale Seminary-trained evangelist James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) would no doubt have been pleased with Lausanne III/Cape Town 2010 and the work of Mission America Coalition in his native U.S. That J. B. Taylor lived and breathed evangelism is evident by such comments as these from his journal entries and letters included in the Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor (1833) and A New Tribute to the Memory of James Brainerd Taylor (1838):
O, may we enter the work [of ministry] to win souls to Christ, and have, as our great motive, the honor of our blessed Redeemer. (Memoir, page 80)

I know that my object, my highest wish while on earth, is to be instrumental in bringing souls to Christ. (Memoir, 181)

The spare time I have from my college duties, I would rather spend with the sick--the indigent; and that, too, to win souls. (Memoir, 233-34)

I feel willing to live a hundred years on earth if I might work for God and bring souls to Christ, and then have nothing diminished from eternity. . . . I fell before the throne and had a longing for souls--I thirsted to bring souls to Christ. I groaned to win souls and almost with agony pleaded to have souls for my hire. I think I felt willing to lay out my life for souls. Souls, souls, I want souls. (Memoir, 268-69)