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This morning we are going to participate in some profound symbolism. Set before us, we see the elements of the Lord’s Supper:
- the bread represents Christ’s body broken to make us whole
- the cup of juice represents Christ’s blood, given as payment for our sins.
As we understand the teaching of Scripture on the subject of the Lord’s Supper, there is nothing magical happening to the elements either as we pray or as we partake of them. They will remain simply bread and juice.
And yet, there is something more going on— something very special— because whenever we respond to the Lord Jesus in faith, he meets us with his grace: salvation for the lost, courage for the fearful, wisdom for the perplexed, rest for the weary, joy for the brokenhearted, and on and on.
So as we eat the bread and drink the cup together in faith, we receive grace to meet whatever is our truest need, both as individuals and as a body. This morning, we ask that you simply put everything else out of your minds and hearts for a few minutes and seek the Lord in faith, expecting that he will meet you where you need him most.
Serving the Bread. Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-24. Pray.
Serving the Cup. Read 1 Corinthians 11:25-26. Pray.
Before 1804, Haiti was a French colony. That is why the common people speak Kreyol, which probably came from an Africanized version of French, but many people have received an education in standard French as well. Printed material and signs can be in either language.The following list will follow this order: English. Kreyol. French
Good morning. Bon Maten. Bonjour
Good evening. Bon aswe. Bon Soir
Goodbye. Orevwa. Au revoir
Thank you. Mèsi. Merci
No, thank you. Pa gen mèsi. Non, merci
Please. Tanpri. S’il vous plait
My name is– Non mwen se— Mon nom est—-
I am from the US. Mwen sòti nan Etazini. Je suis des États-Unis
I live in California. Mwen ap viv nan Kalifòni. Je vis en Californie
Nice to meet you. Bel rankontre. Enchanté
I don’t understand. Mwen pa konprann. Je ne comprends pas
Please speak slowly. Tanpri, pale tou Dousman. S’il vous plait parler lentement
Yes / No. Wi / Pa gen. Oui / Non
That’s good / OK. Sa a bon. C’est bien
I agree. Mwen dakò. Je suis d’accord
That’s right. Ki bon. C’est ça
I am sorry. Mwen dezole. Je suis désolé
Pardon me. Padonnen m ‘. Excusez-moi
I am hungry. Mwen grangou. J’ai faim
I am thirsty. Mwen swaf. J’ai soif
That is delicious. Sa se bon gou. C’est délicieux
I am tired. Mwen fatige. Je suis fatigué
What is that? Ki sa? Qu’est-ce que c’est?
How much is it? Konbyen li ye? Combien ça coute?
What time is it? Ki lè li ye? Quelle heure est-il?
When should we be ready? Lè pou nou ka pare? Quand devrions-nous prêts?
Where is the bathroom? Kote twalet la? Où sont les toilettes?
I am a Christian. Mwen se yon kretyen. Je suis un chretien
We must be at the airport at seven. Nou dwe nan èpòt la nan sèt. Nous devons être à l’aéroport à sept.
And don’t forget these words: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Kreyol: youn, de, twa, kat, senk, sis, set, ywit, nef, dis. French: une, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Kreyol: Dimanch, Lendi, Madi, Mekredi, Jedi, Vandredi, Samdi. French: Dimanche, Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi, Vendredi, Samedi.
These are some phrases I have found to be helpful in doing ministry in Haiti. I hope they will come in handy for anyone traveling there or working with Haitians in other places.
The issue of morality is a tricky one when people begin to discuss community standards. Whose standards will be adopted and codified into law? Why should the morality of one group be preferred over another? Why shouldn’t one individual’s opinion be considered just as valid as that of others?
One person may say, “I live by the Golden Rule: Do to others what you want done for you.” Another says, “Anything goes so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.” Still another puts it like this, “The only one I have to please is myself.” All of these are definite standards for making ethical decisions and all of them affect other people. But where does true morality come from?
In North American society, the current approach is that morality is defined and decided by majority rule. This idea sounds eminently reasonable to our democratic way of thinking. Yet, thinking a bit deeper brings up some troubling problems with the idea of morality by majority consensus. Where did the majority get their views? Who are the shapers behind that public opinion? Why should the views of the morality-shapers be allowed to dominate the minds of so many? In other words, what guarantee is there that the moral opinions of the masses are right or good?
Consider Germany in the 1930s. The Nazi Party was steadily gaining power. It controlled the press, the educational establishment and even many of the churches. Nazi propaganda took advantage of certain ideas and feelings already shared by many Germans, and cleverly shaped those notions into the kind of public opinion it desired. As a result, the world was torn apart and millions died, including six million Jews. Yet, if we agree that morality should be decided by public opinion, we have little room to criticize the morals of Nazi Germany. Their consensus was just different than ours, that’s all.
Some will point out that we aren’t like those terrible Nazis or the German people they duped. Really? The moral standards of North Americans as just as subject to shaping by the media, government and education as any other culture in history. Others will point out that we are different because we value tolerance. The truth is that it really depends upon which side of the current notions of tolerance you fall on. There are a sizable group of people in our culture right now who would claim that intolerance, not tolerance, rules the day. North American society may be tolerant of some people and beliefs, but certainly not all. It just depends on who is in and who is out of power at the time.
Another problem with morality by consensus is that it is subject to constant change. Like a ship with no compass and no chart, a society which has no external moral standards is directionless. External principles are essential both to individuals and to cultures simply because they provide a necessary corrective when standards become out of sync with reality.
So what is the alternative? Let me put it plainly: there is a God. He created the Cosmos. He built into his creation certain moral laws based upon his own nature, by which people should live. The truth is that right and wrong, good and evil, exist independently of what people may think about them. Thomas Jefferson referred to this in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote about, “..certain inalienable rights endowed by our Creator.”
In the final analysis, workable moral standards are only possible when they are based on a source external to the changing whims of the masses or of those who generate public opinion. That external source is God. He is both truly good and truly wise. He alone is impartial, favoring no one. To follow his standards, which Jews and Christians believe are given in the Bible, is to have both a compass and an anchor. In contrast, morality based on the ever-changing opinions of some manufactured majority consensus is biased, arbitrary and chaotic. It seems that we are not far from this in our own times.
We must think clearly about this issue: If there is such a God as is revealed in the Bible, then it follows that there are external standards of right and wrong. In that case, what the majority happens to believe is irrelevant. On the other hand, if there is no such God, then morality is indeed invented by people and agreed upon by each generation. But in that case, true moral principle ceases to exist, and in its place is a mere scramble to shape and dominate the masses. That is why, if God does not exist, both Nazism and Communism make perfect sense. Power is all there is.
No matter what notions are currently popular, our consciences still tell us there there is a God and that his standards are good and fair and right. So the question is, who will we listen to? Those who say, in effect, there is no right or wrong, just power? Or the God who created us and loves us?
Some type of “contract” between Christian organizations and their volunteers is becoming a necessity in our times of legal vulnerability. The following is a sample of the type of thing you may want to do to set the boundaries for volunteers within your church or ministry. It protects your volunteers in that it clearly explains their relationship to the organization. It also provides a degree of protection for the ministry or church from misbehavior on the part of of those working within its ministries. This sample covenant can be used by churches which practice formal membership or by those which have none.
AClick edit above to add content to this empty capsule.
Having received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and desiring to serve Him through specific ministry, I most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with the body of Christ at ________________Church of ________________, _________________.
I therefore promise, through the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, to walk together with my fellow believers in Christian love; to strive for their advancement in knowledge and holiness; to make a place in my prayers for this church and its ministries; to uphold its doctrines; to serve faithfully in discharging my commitments; and to do my part in maintaining harmony and discipline.
In the case of a difference of opinion among believers ministering together in this place, I promise to avoid a contentious spirit, and if complete agreement cannot be achieved, I will recognize the calling of the leaders to govern this ministry as God may lead them and will submit to their decisions. I recognize that if I cannot in good conscience affirm the doctrinal statement or governing policies of the church, it is my duty to remove myself from any ministry, which may be affected by my views to the contrary.
I further promise to guard the reputation of my fellow believers and co-laborers and not to needlessly expose the details of their lives through my conversation with others. I promise to cultivate Christian courtesy in all my relationships; to be slow to give or take offense, and to always be ready for reconciliation, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17. Moreover I purpose, through whatever life may bring, to strive to live for God’s glory.
I understand that this covenant is not a substitute for membership at ___________________________ Church and does not carry with it any member privileges for voting or service outlined in the church constitution.
Signature __________________________________________ Date _____________
(Attach a copy of your church doctrinal statement with signature line, to the covenant)
Composed by Michael Bogart, with acknowledgments to the Baptist Covenant.
Here’s a question that was put to me recently about the interaction of Jesus’ divine and human natures:
Question: Since Jesus, as the Son of God and Second Person of the Trinity, is coequal with God the Father (and of course with the Holy Spirit as well) and since God is omniscient, how can the Son not know the timing of the future in Matthew 24:36? “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (ESV)
Answer: The conventional theological explanation is that because Jesus emptied himself of the right to use certain divine attributes (Philippians 2:6ff), he therefore voluntarily put himself in a position where he limited lots of things about his divine nature in order to be truly human.
For example, he was limited to being in one place at a time, he was limited in that he had to eat, sleep, etc. It is natural therefore for him to be limited in knowledge as well, though that seems to have been periodically overridden at times when he had special insight into people’s thinking, etc.
I hope this sheds some light on the issue.
The New Testament Books by Category and Theme
The Synoptic Gospels
- Matthew: The gospel to the Jews
- Mark: The gospel to the Romans
- Luke: The gospel to the Greeks
The Supplementary Gospel. John: The gospel to the world
History. Acts of the Apostles: A record of the early Christian Church
- Paul’s Travel Epistles: Romans: Most comprehensive discussion of salvation; 1 Corinthians: Correction of Corinthian errors and divisions; 2 Corinthians: Paul defends his authority and concern for the Corinthians; Galatians: Salvation by grace apart from works; 1 Thessalonians: Clarification about the resurrection of believers; 2 Thessalonians: Clarification about the timing of Christ’s return
- Paul’s Prison Epistles: Ephesians: The Church as a united new people in Christ; Philippians: Joy at Christ’s presence through adversity; Colossians: Warnings against participation in heresy; Philemon: A personal letter to Paul’s friend about Onesimus
- Paul’s Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy: Instructions to Timothy about Christian leadership; Titus; Titus is instructed to set standards of sound doctrine and good works; 2 Timothy: Paul’s final words given to Timothy
- Miscellaneous Epistles: Hebrews: Christ is superior to the Torah (Mosaic Covenant); James: Practical issues for Christian living; Jude: God’s judgment on false teachers
- Petrine Epistles: 1 Peter: Courage under suffering; 2 Peter: False teaching is strongly condemned
- Johannine Epistles: 1 John: Warnings against Gnostic teachers; 2 John: Cooperation with false teachers is forbidden; 3 John: Cooperation with teachers of the gospel is commanded
Apocalypse: Revelation: Preparation for Christ’s return
How to Diagnose and Resolve Christian Conflict
This article is dedicated to all the dear servants of Christ who have encountered difficult people in their churches and organizations. I have often thought that there might be some type of special recognition, among the rewards Jesus will bestow when his Kingdom comes in its fullness. Maybe a sort of ‘purple heart” will be given to his servants who have been wounded in the line of duty. Whether this is the case or not, Hebrews 4:13 promises that nothing will remain hidden. God knows all and will not fail to deal with every deed: good or evil.
The truth is that most interpersonal problems in churches result from misunderstanding and poor communication. Such problems can be solved by cutting other people some slack, taking the trouble to talk things out and affirming one another ‘s faith. However, there are those problems which are not caused by simple miscommunication. So, let me list a few basic categories of folks who typically cause confusion and hurt within the body of Christ. Before I do so, I must acknowledge that this list is a huge oversimplification of reality. However, its value lies in this very oversimplification. Understanding some basic things at work when people get hurt among groups of Christians can help Christ’s servants cope when they find themselves the target of attack or caught in the crossfire of controversy.
The Clueless Christian. Bless their hearts, there are those people in most churches who are not fully aware of the feelings of those around them. They may be unaware that their words and actions are having a negative effect on the people they associate with and hindering Christ’s work. Because of this, they often find themselves unintentionally offending the people they worship and fellowship with and quite surprised at the reaction they receive. People who have known these folks for awhile may often say things like, “Oh, that’s just the way he is.” or “She doesn’t mean any harm.” The best way to cope with such people is to develop a tough skin to their insensitive behavior.
At the same time you should consider your role in making them aware of how their behavior affects you and others. Proverbs 12:15 provides some guidance when it says, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” You will soon know which type of person you are dealing with if you fairly and lovingly approach the person with how their words and actions are perceived. It may be that you will of great help to them in realizing what is happening and altering their way of dealing with people. If offending behavior persists, even after your loving efforts to deal with it, the person may need to be given opportunities to serve in way which minimize the damage caused by their words and actions.
The Mean Christian. It is sad to say, but there are people in churches who seem to derive some sort of satisfaction from demeaning others. Motives are always very difficult to discern, but it may be that at least some of these disagreeable people are attempting to bolster their own egos by tearing down people around them. They may be perpetually insecure or angry. They may have a grudge against a particular individual or a certain type of person. These folks will eventually build a reputation of being hard to work with, grumpy and just plain ornery. They may even have a handful of people around them who are impressed with their ability to achieve goals and who don’t seem to mind the difficulties of associating with them.
The remark often made about such people (out of earshot of course) is that someone ought to stand up to them. The reason people hesitate to do so is that most church folks desire to be agreeable and are intimidated by the prospect of a confrontation which almost certainly will not be received graciously by the difficult person. Indeed, if you are of the strong opinion that such a person should be lovingly confronted, it may be your privilege to do so. If so, be sure to spend time in prayer and confession of your own sins as well as receiving impartial (and confidential) counsel before proceeding. Matthew 18:15-17 gives the procedure for handling this type of thing. Again, if the personal interaction does not work, leadership may need to become involved. This will depend, of course, upon the magnitude and scope of the damage being caused by the individual in question.
The Divisive Christian. Some folks aren’t so much mean or clueless as they are intent on creating controversy. They may actually be quite charming and agreeable while fomenting confusion and creating parties within the church. I will mention doctrinal and stylistic divisions in later paragraphs. What I am thinking of here is the person who through comment and innuendo, fans the flames of hurt and jealousy between people for the very purpose of creating factions. This person thrives on the manipulation of people in order to divide the otherwise harmonious body of Christ.
I am reminded of James 3:5-6, which says,” Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” In some ways the divisive person is far more dangerous than either the clueless or the obviously mean person. He or she can cause extensive damage to a church or organization through gossip and suspicion before anyone in leadership is aware that a situation exists. This type of person must be dealt with immediately by appropriate leaders .
The Agenda-Driven Christian. Unlike the person whose main motivation is the creating of factions, the agenda-driven person is bent on achieving a particular goal. In the process, he or she may gather followers, devise a plan and pursue a course of action in order to accomplish the desired objective. Goals can include issues related to church facilities, styles of music, controversy over current leadership and many other possible scenarios. Often this will mean that factions will arise based on their stance toward the agenda being pushed.
Agendas are not necessarily bad things. Sometimes these folks are of a visionary nature and feel strongly about a certain policy or direction for the church or organization. The problem comes when the normal, reasonable give-and-take within the body is replaced by a determination to achieve the goal without consideration for others. Philippians 2:3 puts it like this: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” The ideal would be to achieve some biblical and reasonable compromise which meets the needs of all concerned. Otherwise the situation quickly becomes divisive and counter-productive.
The Purist Christian. Ah, the righteous remnant! The truth is, I appreciate these dear people very much. Many of them are sincerely dedicated to the teachings of scripture and to the Kingdom of God. They love the Lord and want to please him in every area of their lives. I affirm their devotion and assume their motives are good. Yet, they can create tremendous havoc among God’s people through their uncompromising stand on what theologians call the second and third tiers of doctrine. Here I am not talking about the deity of Christ, the inspiration of scripture or the Trinity, etc. I am committed to what I believe are the clear teachings of scripture on these “first tier” doctrinal issues. I also have my views on second and third tier doctrines. My purist friends, however, don’t share the viewpoint that, while first tier doctrine is non-negotiable, the less central teachings of the Bible, and especially those for which biblical arguments can be made from several doctrinal positions, should not become issues for accusation and disrespect within the body (Romans 14:4-5).
What to do about the objections and commitments of the purists? I keep coming back to the word ‘reasonable’. One would hope that, even among those committed to having Christian truth taught correctly and in detail (as they understand it), there would still be some reasonability toward the legitimate views of others. Of course, some reasonable purists do exist. These folks are able to balance their personal convictions with the concern for the views of other sincere believers within the congregation.
In my experience, however, true purists come up short in the reasonability category. To them, holding fast to some interpretation of the timing of Jesus’ return or some point of view about how believers should relate to the wider culture is of equal importance with the doctrine of Christ’s deity. It seems to me that the best scriptural guide in situations like this is found in 1 Corinthians 10:28, which says in part, “…For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?”. It is ultimately unwise to allow someone whose conscience is weaker on a variety of issues to set the agenda for an entire body of believers and to insist that everyone else conform to their scruples. Giving into them for the sake of appeasement is, in effect, to hand them the agenda. It only encourages such folks to take a stand and force an issue every time something is said or done of which they don’t approve. In that situation, churches spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy dealing with matters of conscience, often with little remaining for constructive things.
The Annoying Christian. Then there are people who sort of rub you the wrong way. It is hard to say just why they do sometimes. It could be that your personality is opposite to theirs in many respects. They may come from a culturally different background from yours. You may think they talk too much, or that they are stuck up, or that they crave being the center of attention. As much as the behavior of certain people bothers you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a substantial problem. It may just be that you don’t hit it off together. As far as I can tell, there is no place in scripture which commands that believers like one another. There are plenty of places where we are commanded to love one another, but love and liking are not the same thing at all. Consider the words of Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” The bottom line is that you just put up with some folks in Christian love.
It is my hope that this brief overview will be helpful to those facing difficult people in their churches and Christian organizations. There is no easy or fool-proof methodology, but perhaps knowing what may be driving various types of people will be a help. Then trusting God to work through us as we follow the mandates of scripture will be a bit easier.
Europe from Rome to the Renaissance
The Middle Ages are also sometimes called the Medieval Period of Western Civilization from medium (middle) + aevum (age). The Medieval Period extended from the late 400s to the late 1300s CE (around 900 years). Medieval civilization was created by a combining of three primary elements: Judeo- Christian religion and values, Classical (Greco-Roman) civilization and barbarian culture. To a lesser extent, the neighboring cultures of the Byzantine east and Islam also made contributions to Medieval Civilization.
The Fall of Rome. Roman Civilization began to deteriorate from about 200 CE onward, though in the Fourth Century (300s) there were several successful turnarounds of this trend. In the late 400s the weakness of the Empire, caused by corruption and various other stresses, combined with barbarian pressure from the northeast, culminated in a catastrophic collapse of the Roman government. The eastern portion of the Empire continued until the 1450s as the Byzantine Empire with its own Greek-based civilization.
The Dark Age. The collapse of Roman civilization in western Europe was followed by a Dark Age of barbarian invasion, settlement and supremacy, lasting around 300 years. The new barbarian kingdoms included Visigoths (Spain), Ostrogoths (Italy), Lombards (Italy), Franks (France) and the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in Britain. These Germanic kingdoms all eventually converted to Catholic Christianity and formed an alliance with the Church. The main civilizing factors during this dark period were the Christian Church and the manorial system.
- The Church preserved learning and the arts, mainly in the cathedral cities and in monastic houses, which began to form after the year 500. It also supplied strong leadership and organization during the dark years of chaos and deterioration.
- Manorialism was built around the nucleus of wealthy and powerful estates, called manors, which usually contained a fortified villa and surrounding lands with the associated industries. Together, these elements formed a unit which was virtually self-contained.
The Holy Roman Empire. The Frankish kingdom which replaced much of the former Roman province of Gaul, was at first ruled by a line of kings founded by the warlord Clovis and known as the Merovingian Dynasty.
Several centuries later, the Frankish kingdom became the model for the formation of medieval Europe through the leadership of Charles the Great. Charles conquered the nearby lands of the Lombards and Saxons as well as aiding the Christian rulers of northern Spain in pushing the Muslims further south. He was an able administrator and kept his diverse kingdom together through tight organization and supervision. Charles fostered a renewal of the arts and learning, known as the Carolingian Renaissance. For his successes and service to the Church, Charles was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in the year 800.
Charles’ success in reuniting a considerable portion of Rome’s former territory caused some people to hope that Rome could be revived permanently. Charles’ Holy Roman Empire began to weaken, however, during the final years of his reign and, in the time of his grandsons, was divided into three portions. In the late 800s the Carolingian attempt at reviving Rome’s empire was much reduced and fragmented, so that by the Tenth Century, Europe was again in survival mode as Magyars, Turks and Vikings raided, settled and spread havoc.
In this new situation, leadership was not provided by kings, but by local nobles who ruled their domains semi-independently. The exception to this rule was Tenth Century Germany, where Otto I dominated his nobles and recreated a version of the Holy Roman Empire for a time, until the nobility was able to re-assert control over their own domains.
The system under which order was established and maintained is known as feudalism. Lords awarded portions of land, called fiefs, to noblemen in exchange for oaths of loyalty and service. These men were called vassals and ruled their fiefs and the serfs (peasants and common people) living on them. Noblemen often served as heavy cavalry, or knights, in the service of a lord or vassal. In time, knights developed a code of warfare and behavior, called chivalry (the code of the horseman), in which the ideal Christian gentleman lived in courtesy, honor and religious devotion.
The High Middle Ages. By the Eleventh Century, strong leadership and stability began to re-emerge in several places, notably France and England. For example, in 1066 Duke William of Normandy invaded Britain and conquered the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom, making himself king. He awarded fiefs to his Norman and French knights, largely replacing the Anglo-Saxon nobility. His strong central government made Norman England the most stable kingdom in Europe.
The time between 1000 and 1300 are often thought of as the High Middle Ages. During these years, kings and nobles provided enough stability so that people could think beyond simple survival. New land was reclaimed from swamps, forests (and in Holland, even from the sea). Agricultural production increased. Trade flourished. Trade guilds were formed to regulate commerce and ensure the rights of merchants and tradesmen. New products were introduced from the Middle East and beyond. Large annual trade fairs were established throughout Europe. Coinage began to replace barter as the means of exchange. Castle building made attacks on neighboring lands difficult and costly. Technology advanced, along with basic civic planning.
During this time, the Papacy and the Catholic Church rose to a height of power and prestige. Popes and clergy could enforce their will upon nobles through the threat of excommunication. From Rome, the Vatican administered a vast empire including most of Western Europe. Gothic architecture expressed worship through ambitious new designs and building techniques. Catholics from across Europe were able to unite around the common venture of the Crusades (1099 – 1297).
Scholasticism. Re-contact with the Byzantine East and the Muslim world during the Crusades, the writings of the ancient Greeks, especially Aristotle, were re-discovered, studied and debated. Scholars were attracted to the life of learning, centered around major cathedrals. This advance in scholarship developed into scholasticism, which attempted to understand and explore all subject areas under the guidance of theology. Jewish scholasticism (Maimonides) and Muslim scholasticism (Averroes) interacted and argued with Catholic scholastics, like Thomas Aquinas, over the meaning and application of Aristotelian thought to contemporary issues. Christian scholastics debated whether Aristotle and other Greek thinkers could be helpful (or even compatible) with Christian thought and teachings. Major universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge and Paris were founded through the work of the scholastics.
During the High Middle Ages, feudalism began to lose its important function as the basis for society. Cities were re-invigorated and began to expand. Peasants began to leave the land, moving to cities to find a new life. Strong kings and nobles could afford to raise standing armies through tax revenues. This allowed kings to be less dependent upon vassals for military support, enabling them to gain greater control over their domains.
The Late Middle Ages. The Fourteenth Century saw several setbacks to the progress of the High Middle Ages. The Hundred Years’ War between England and France (1337-1453) drained both countries of resources. The ravages of the Bubonic Plague (1347 – 1350) killed between a quarter and a third of Europe’s population. These things, along with series of serious natural disasters, caused the population of Europe to decrease and social progress to slow down drastically.
In this period, the power of the nobility was reduced as kings imposed their will and made alliances with the merchants of the growing middle class. These strong central governments gave rise to the nations of modern Europe. At the same time, the power and prestige of the Papacy was damaged by popular reaction to the set-backs of the later crusades and by the refusal of kings to be intimidated by Vatican threats of excommunication. Movements like the one led by Francis of Assisi to criticize the wealth of the Catholic Church, began a rethinking of Christian practice and church allegiance. The revival of the classical viewpoint known as humanism began to take hold in the universities and other places as theological views were questioned and debated. This would give rise to the humanistic Renaissance beginning around 1400 in Italy.
The Middle Ages came to a close through the innovations of Renaissance, the discovery and exploration of the Americas and the drastic rethinking of Christianity in the Protestant Reformation. By the mid 1400s, with the Renaissance in full bloom, the Middle Ages would effectively come to an end.
Maybe you are like me in having attended dozens of evangelism training sessions over the years. I have both learned and taught the Four Spiritual Laws, The Bridge, Steps to Peace With God, Evangelism Explosion and a number of other methods and approaches. Each of these tools may have its merits, especially in focusing the content of the gospel on Jesus and a person’s response of faith in him. At least in the circles I travel in, there has been a substantial amount of talk about what we say to people. My concern lately, however, has been with the equally important issue of how we meet and relate to the people we desire to share this message with.
Along with my pastoral ministry within the church, it has been my privilege to have the opportunity to be involved in many community activities. For many years, I have also taught part-time in a couple of universities and a community college in my area where I have met literally hundreds of students from nearly every walk of life. This experience has resulted in some pretty seasoned views about how to relate to people as a genuine Christian. So, here are some things to keep in mind as you meet people who do not openly profess the Christian faith.
- First don’t assume that, because a person is not actively attending an evangelical church, he or she is automatically an unbeliever. Some Christians have become inactive in their church life or in personal walk due to a variety of circumstances, including: moving to a new city, a change of work schedule, a lapse in personal routine or spiritual discipline, a separation from an important spiritual influence, such as a parent or a much-respected Christian friend, being hurt by other Christians, etc.
Before I go on, let me speak to the issue of church category. Again, simply because a person attends a church which is not similar to yours, it does not necessarily mean that they are involved in a compromised form of Christianity. There are genuine believers in the biblical Jesus in a variety of churches, which may be somewhat different from your own.
- Secondly, when relating to those who do not profess Christian faith, don’t set up an “us and them” situation in your mind. Remember that Jesus spoke with all sorts of people without seeming to categorize them as religious or non-religious. He told some of the most unlikely people that they were very close to the Kingdom of God (Matthew 21:32), while people who were outwardly religious were told they could not even see the Kingdom unless they experienced radical inward change (John 3:3). People are generally offended by being classified and they are usually pretty quick to sense that, from your perspective, they are “outsiders”. The truth from God’s perspective is that some people we might not ever suspect are only a step or two from eternal life.
- Learn to genuinely appreciate and enjoy people for what they are. Notice I didn’t say you must accept everything about them or even befriend every person you meet. Obviously some people will be more likeable to you than others. The point is, that the first step in receiving a fair hearing as you share your faith in Jesus (as well as in expressing other values and commitments which are very dear to you), is to treat a variety of people with a common level of appreciation and respect. If you are willing to like people you meet, that usually comes across clearly to most reasonable folks. People like to be liked.
- Not everyone is reasonable. A certain percentage of people don’t have either the personality, emotional stability, mental clarity or maturity of character to give you a fair hearing. (By the way, this includes committed Christians.) There are people who are generally angry and take it out on those around them. Others may have met someone in their past whom they came to dislike intensely and who seems in their mind to be like you. There are judgmental people; cruel people; argumentative people; mean people; fearful people; manipulative people—I could go on. Just get used to the idea that, willing though you may be to like those you meet, not everyone will return the favor.
- As a professed follower of Jesus, you represent him. No one alive now has ever seen Jesus. We read about him in scripture or are taught in church and get an understanding of who he is in that way. But at the present time, his followers act as his visible body. Like it or not, as the hands and feet of Jesus, people look at you and see him. This truth speaks volumes about how we behave ourselves: how we think and speak and act. In other words, how we live as followers of Jesus is at least as important as the words we say about him or how we say them.
- When someone does show an openness to you and your faith, you may want to extend an invitation to attend a situation in which they can observe believers acting like believers under the influence of God’s word.
o An invitation to a church service is an easy entry-point. In many churches on Sunday morning, visitors are not be singled out or embarrassed, but can sit and simply observe while at the same time being exposed to scripture and the gospel.
o Perhaps a special event will be of particular interest to them. Care groups, programs for their children, women’s and men’s groups and activities, as well as youth events are all options which may meet a certain need in their life.
o Maybe the best option is to offer a chance to spend time together with you. Something as simple as a cup of coffee and some conversation for a few minutes can develop into a friendship, which can lead to a deep sharing of the Christian faith. It goes without saying that it is usually best for men to befriend men and women to befriend other women. Don’t forget that the gospel is all about transformation of life from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Colossians 1:13-14). As a friend, your own story will be of great interest to them and perhaps of deep influence on them.
With these reminders clearly before us, sharing Christian faith in the postmodern culture of the Twenty-first Century does not have to be intimidating. In fact, it can be a hugely rewarding experience and a stimulus to growth in areas we may have yet to experience.