Sunday, October 16, 2016

2 Timothy: Equipping for Evangelism vs. One Episcopal Priest's Plan for Church Growth

This Sunday's epistle reading is 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, and this contains some very important lessons for those who want the Church to grow.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. 
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

To summarize, the foundations for what we know, believe and do are,
  1. Scripture instructs us for salvation.
  2. Scripture instructs us that salvation is through faith in Jesus.
  3. Scripture (all of it) is inspired by God.
  4. Scripture should be used for teaching, reproof, correction, and training.
  5. Scripture should be learned for you need to be proficient in it.
  6. Scripture and knowledge of it is necessary for you to do every good work.
Growing the Church requires the following,
  1. Proclaim  the good news.
  2. Be persistent no matter what.
  3. Evangelism involves patience, convincing, encouraging, and the nasty practice of rebuking.
  4. Rebuking is needed because people are easily seduced by false teachings.
  5. The evangelist should stay sober and prepared to endure abuse.

Paul knew what he was talking about. After all, he was chosen by God to be one of the most successful evangelists of all time.

This past week,  a Facebook friend posted a link to an article by an Episcopal priest entitled,
"A three-point plan for turning around the Episcopal Church right now!" (link here)
He starts out by choosing to deny and ignore the elephant in the room before launching into his plan.

"Is it because of the declining attitude about church in the northeast? Is it because of liberal theology? No. In our beloved, demographically awesome Diocese of Dallas, we’ve declined .5% in membership and a higher than the national average 5.3% in ASA.
Is it because we need a massive restructuring in church polity, governance and resources? Probably not. Is it simply because we are a mainline denomination whose glory days are behind us? Is it because people are choosing non-denominational 'big box' churches? Hey, it’s far better to be pure in liturgy than large in attendance, right? Wrong."
Once he has dispensed with that, he lays out his strategy,
1. "To the clergy — preach the Gospel. It is Jesus people need, not social commentary. Over the last few days I’ve been stunned at the level of passion that clergy have put forth about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I wish you would get as excited about Jesus as you are about Trump’s tapes and Hillary’s e-mails! In your social media profile, and for God’s sake your pulpit, stop imposing your polarizing ideas on your congregation. Is being “prophetic” a simple code-word for making yourself feel better via your bully pulpit? Cut it out! Lift up the goodness, grace and love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Cast a vision of a church united in a common mission of transformation. Make your church a house of healing, a resource of reconciliation and a haven of hope. Most people — even the people who agree with you — really don’t want to feel more lousy about the world and themselves than when they came in. The Gospel is Good News. Even confrontational sermons must be soaked in the grace and love of Jesus Christ. I’m sorry to break this to you, but the Jesus Movement is not the installment of your personal political philosophy. Be excited about Jesus! Less of you and more of Him."

Well, he sort of gets what Paul was talking about regarding scripture, but he leaves out the need for correction and rebuke of the Episcopal organization's leadership. I am afraid he would rather just tame the political activists who chase away pewsitters and not the theological progressives who poison the Church itself.

2. "To the laity — be nice to people! For example, one small reason for the decline in the Episcopal Church, I’m convinced, is the Exchange of the Peace. While members hug, chat and smile with one another, visitors of our churches stand stiffly, often completely ignored, thinking, 'Well, I guess this place isn’t for me'. Most churches feel like they are nice and welcoming, but really they are not. When is the last time you welcomed a newcomer? Sat next to someone you didn’t know? Made it a point to extend your friendship to someone outside of your current circle of relationships? No amount of restructuring at any level, no change in the music, and no amount of good preaching is strong enough to overcome this obstacle. This is not the Vestry’s job or the 'Invite, Welcome, Connect' team’s initiative to achieve. If you love your church and want to see it succeed, this turnaround must start with you. A welcoming church will grow — not just because people will return but because it will be a safe place for people to invite friends to."
Paul's idea of being nice to people was to share the good news that Jesus died for our sins. The modern idea of being nice to people is to not mention anything that might offend them such as, "Welcome to this place where we can repent and our sins are forgiven".

3. "To all of us — exist for your mission field, not yourselves. Way too much of our energy and resources flow inward, not outward. How much longer will your church exist for itself? If the place was closed, would your community notice? Would it care? The days when we can paint our front doors red and expect people to come are gone and they are never coming back. Our mission fields don’t care about our stained glass windows, our organs or even how great the baked goods are at coffee hour after church. What is one thing your church could do to reach out? How might you open those red doors wide and let people know they can come? Where are the poor and how can you serve them? What is a need in your community that your church can meet? When will the blessed energy of your church flow outward instead of inward?"
Not one word of mention that the mission going outward is to spread the good news of salvation through Jesus to the world, but I guess that has not been the Episcopal organization's mission for so long that it has been forgotten.

I think I'll stick with Paul's advice.


  1. Anonymous4:15 AM

    I liked your lists of 6 and 5, which are very biblical. However, your criticism of the Episcopal priest in Dallas was unhelpful. You displayed some bitterness, and didn't St. Paul warn us to beware of bitterness? Its not a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.
    "Well, he sort of gets what Paul was talking...but he leaves out the need for correction and rebuke of the Episcopal organization's leadership"

    It seems that the guy was just trying to write something motivating, not change the whole Episcopal Church in one shot! It would be better to be balanced here, and note what the priest was doing well. Why wouldn't we applaud when an Episcopal priest does something good? Remember the old saying, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

    1. In my rebuke of the Episcopal priest, there is no bitterness. He cannot ignore the elephant in the room which is the false gospel which is eating away at the Episcopal organization. Where are the courageous Episcopal priests who will stand up for traditional marriage, who will lay down in front of the abortion clinics, or who will take a stand against the next prayer book revision which will chase away more pewsitters?

  2. Anonymous3:14 AM

    I like straightforward and plain reading of scritpure. It might be better sometimes for the priests to simply read St. Paul's letters in the pulpit, instead of trying to preach. Or read a homily from Cranmer's book.
    *The "remnant" of evangelical clergy in the Episcopal Church will lose their licences if they criticize the bishops loudly. That's a simple fact-- so be realistic. The mouse can't defeat the elephant in open ground. Neither can the racoon. Rather, wait upon God, for Him to act in His providence. After all, He puts the bishops in office (sometimes to do harm, not good-- as part of his judgement of His church. Its hard enough for the rigteous to be saved...) But God can defeat the elephants when He chooses to take them away, when the time of judgement and scourging of the church ends. Appeal to God's mercy: 'Pray the Lord of the harvest to send workers!' (Matt 9.35-39.) Cherish the low-ranking, faithful clergy--the best we got, none of which are as bold now as we would like. The remmant is down on the ground, dealing with the elephant hoofs God sent in His providence to judge the church. Meawhile, 'the righteous will live by faith.'