Identity and evangelism

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Johan Maurer

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Feb 17, 2013, 10:42:25 AM2/17/13
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February 14 2004 at 1:19 AM various  (no login)
[originally sent 29 January 2004]

"Speaking from experience..."

From: Marv Mardock
Sent: 29 January 2004 02:41
To: Johan
Subject: "Speaking from experience..."

Hi Johan,
How goes the study? I've got some related questions: as you are studying evangelism among Friends, where do you find that growth is taking place? Does there seem to be a correlation between growth and how Friends view themselves (as Quakers, Friends, Evangelical Friends, the Society of Friends, etc.)? How important is identity to growth? Thanks for sharing, Brother.
Blessings,
Marv Mardock
 
  
Ben Richmond
(no login)
Re: Identity and evangelism February 14 2004, 1:23 AM 

From: Ben Richmond
Sent: 05 February 2004 19:16
To: Johan
Subject: RE: "Speaking from experience..."

What an interesting question! It goes beyond data that is more or less easily available, which would be which yearly meetings are growing. For instance, there is slight growth in NEYM and BaltYM, but continued decline in NYYM -- so, even though I think most of the meetings in all three YMs would self-identify as "Quaker" and "RSoF," it doesn't look like a generalization can be made. There is growth in FCSW (CA) but my impression is that the engine for that is a few mega churches, while some of the other churches show a "growth pattern" typical of pastoral churches in the Midwest, so I don't think that simply self-identifying as an Evangelical Friends Church (as opposed to a Quaker Meeting) equals growth on an average basis. My comments are anecdotal, and the fact is that I've not studied the statistics, even on a broad YM basis. To answer the question, though, would require a deeper study based on a survey of individual meetings about how they present themselves. Sometimes official names in Minute books don't reflect the public identity. For instance, Whitewater Monthly Meeting here in Richmond has a sign-board "First Friends Church: A Quaker Meeting," (They are trying to have it both ways, and, I think, have a negative growth pattern.) Then, there is the problem that several Yearly Meetings only report membership, whereas you really need worship attendance figures. NCYM has a precipitous membership decline but attendance is holding pretty well. 

How's that for "I don't know"?

My intuition is that "identity" is key to growth, and it doesn't matter what the identity is so long as it is passionately held. I'd love to see someone do some statistically valid research. What do the Natural Church Development people say about this?

Ben
 
   
Johan 
(no login)
Re: Identity and evangelism February 14 2004, 1:40 AM 

From: Johan Maurer
Sent: 08 February 2004 10:28
To: Larry Kinser
Subject: Evangelism and the Friends Testimonies project

Dear Larry:

I am taking a breather from the world of Friends' bureaucracy to spend a year on a project to understand Friends evangelism better. In connection with this project, I got a question from Marv Mardock of my own yearly meeting, Northwest, as follows (and this refers to a lively discussion within NWYM) ...

---
Hi Johan,
How goes the study? I've got some related questions: as you are studying evangelism among Friends, where do you find that growth is taking place? Does there seem to be a correlation between growth and how Friends view themselves (as Quakers, Friends, Evangelical Friends, the Society of Friends, etc.)? How important is identity to growth? Thanks for sharing,
Brother.
Blessings,
Marv Mardock
---

Either from distrust of statistics or from sheer laziness I have not gotten involved with quantitative analysis; I know from my time working with Friends organizations how uncontrolled the variables are in church statistics. However, you've been able to watch realities in Evangelical Friends Southwest with a higher quality of input. Do you have any thoughts or intuitions on Marv Mardock's questions?

Friends Church Southwest's growth (and especially an article in the Los Angeles Times) in large part provoked this project of mine in the first place. I'd love to have some input from you on Marv's questions and if you could (click on the link in my signature) on my project as a whole. I'd also love to know if Natural Church Development has been a tool to understand and shape effective evangelism, in your experience.

In Christian friendship,

Johan
 
 
Larry Kinser 
(no login)
Re: Identity and evangelism February 14 2004, 1:45 AM 

Marv's Questions: as you are studying evangelism among Friends, where do you find that growth is taking place? Does there seem to be a correlation between growth and how Friends view themselves (as Quakers, Friends, Evangelical Friends, the Society of Friends, etc.)? How important is identity to growth? 

Johan, my first impression is to write volumes. Ha, just what you don't need. I have decided instead to attempt to use Marv's questions as a tool to help me focus on what is important and observable in EFCSW.

1) Where do you find growth taking place? Answer: Unfortunately, numerical growth is not very well tied to Evangelism. We have churches that know how to grow numerically through marketing, through consumerism (attracting people through goods and services), through transfer growth (attracting the above from other, smaller, neighboring churches that can't offer that same level of consumerism). Therefore, I must somehow attempt to separate "New Convert" growth from "All Other Kinds of Growth". So, let's set all of the above aside in a category of "Some will grow but not all will evangelize," and try to focus on Evangelism growth. (sharing the Evangel with a person who has not previously established a saving and personal relationship with the Christ) That growth does exist. Presently in EFCSW it exists in a form of steady, slow but sure stream of new people into the kingdom. This "pace" may very well only replace the numbers of those who die, move, or otherwise leave a particular church. Many of our churches that appear to be "Static" or at least "Slowly Growing" are in fact sharing Christ in a significant way. From a program point of view, two things work fairly well here in the culture of Southwestern U.S. A. Alpha is working in churches that use it as prescribed. B. Purpose Driven Life is also a program that has attracted non-Christians to the Christ-life. I'm not a big program fan. I think they come in as fads and move out as bureaucratic failures most of the time. These two seem somewhat more effective because the American Culture is asking "What Am I Alive For? Is This All There Is?" On the corporate level, EFCSW is not pushing these, or any other programs. On the corporate level we continue to proclaim that the most effective evangelism is one-to-one, personal, relational, incarnational sharing of the light of Christ. We are training our people to think and act strategically in the following way: 1) Maintain a current evangelistic prayer list of people in your life. 2) Perform intentional acts of service and kindness to those people so that they will experience the love of Christ firsthand. 3) Invite and take those people to events and settings that will share the life and light of Christ with them. This can be a secular setting in which Christians are present in significant numbers or religious settings that are non-threatening. 4) Weave the story of the church, the savior and your personal experience into the narrative discussions we have with these people. 5) At some point help them engage the scripture. (Life transformation groups, small group study, Simple Church Meetings etc.) 6) Develop a closing procedure that works well with your own personality. Make certain it is not manipulative. But remember, There will come a time in every person's life in which they will be given the opportunity to choose. We must be ready and comfortable to act when that moment presents itself. I feel the Friends Church has failed many times in one or more of these 6 areas thus loosing the moment of conversion for those we live near. We have found that anyone practicing these 6 disciplines do indeed encounter 1-4 evangelistic conversions per year from their efforts. If a whole church were to do so---it can't help but grow. This kind of incarnational evangelism is so much healthier than the program-driven approaches of recent years.

2) Does there seem to be a correlation between growth and how Friends view themselves (as Quakers, Friends, Evangelical Friends, the Society of Friends, etc.)? Answer: In my experience there is. I have experience in Mid-America Y.M., Rocky Mountain Y.M., EFC-ER and EFCSW. In addition I have visited, as a guest singer/preacher in Iowa, Western, Indiana, Wilmington and Northwest YM. From personal experience, it appears that a congregation of believers who wrap their identity in "Quaker" almost always adopts the evangelism stance of: "if we conduct public meetings they will come" and "to be a Christian in our church you must also become a Quaker by identification with the testimonies." This has resulted in several hundred churches that exist in a state of stagnation or decline. While pastoring in EFC-ER, and championing "Evangelism", I was confronted with this statement: "It is the Holy Spirit's responsibility to shed light into people's lives, He doesn't need the human agent to help." My response was a question that brought offense: "So we have become Calvinists?" Well, the person certainly disagreed with that, but in fact, hadn't we arrived at the basic Calvinist proclamation through the back door? I believe we are called and commissioned to be the agents of proclaiming truth and sharing light so that people in darkness may believe. However, I disavow, with strong emotion, methods that manipulate. It seems to me that balance is the question at hand. "How do we share the light without coercion?" See above in unit # 1. Well, I realize I've gotten off the subject and back on my soapbox, so I'll attempt to re-align. Secondly: Not all churches that identify themselves as "Friends" or even "Evangelical Friends" necessarily grow because of their identity. If they grow, they grow due to one or more of the above discussions in number 1, not because of their "name handle". So, so summarize question 2: It is my experience that those congregations who identify themselves as "Quaker" usually do not grow evangelistically, but that those congregations who identify themselves as Friends do not grow numerically just because they've taken the more "evangelical" identification. The two are not converse. 

3) How important is identity to growth? I think identity IS the question. Those congregations that identify themselves with Christ in as many ways as they can--seem to grow. I believe Jesus IS THE issue. According to Fox's own experience and initial encounter with Christ-- "He, the living Christ, is the only one that can speak to the fallen human condition." Therefore, all of our other efforts to make this or that the issue will always fail. The human predicament will not be addressed by proclaiming ourselves "Quaker" or "Friends" or "Baptists" or "Wesleyans" or "Catholics". The human condition can only be addressed by the eternal existence, the earthily life, the incarnational light, the substituionary sacrifice, the victory over death, the imparted righteousness, the eternal provision....of the Christ. Churches of any breed that live by that mantra tend to grow and churches that get distracted toward this or that theological interpretation tend not to grow. (defining growth as healthy, evangelistic addition and not the stirring of the transfer pot) 

Thanks Marvin, for identifying the clarifying questions.

4) Now, having said all of that, I'll make a short stab at your larger study. What is the relationship between Friends Evangelism and Friends Testimonies? Wow, that could generate about 800 pages quickly. Ok, I'll try to make it simple: It seems to me that when the cart and the horse are in the right order, the two co-exist with health. In other words, Evangelistic identity should always be Christ and He Alone. He is fully sufficient--to use Quaker-eese. The first call of the church as an organization is to bring the lost world to repentance. As we grow and understand the light and life of Christ, there is more than ample room to let the Friends Testimonies rise out of that. However, the Achilles heel of the Friends movement, in my humble opinion, is that many times we have the Testimonies elevated to be the litmus test of whether a person is indeed enlightened by the Christ. In other words, "if they buy our stuff, they're welcome, if not, they are excluded from our fellowship." I can't find that kind of exclusiveness either in the Scripture or in any healthy story in church history. I think our Friends church should and must define the Testimonies in the context of rising out of the person of Christ. However, if one has a disagreement with that, they are not excluded from our worship family. "Just go be a good Baptist and we'll bless you in your move," seems to be the prevailing attitude. Then, there become two anti-thesis to this: 1) The ultra-Evangelical Friends Church that is a generic protestant expression or 2) The Universalist that finally proclaims all person are ok and we shouldn't draw the line even at Christology. Obviously, from my upbringing I tend to be in the first camp, even more than the centralist camp. But beyond that, I keep asking myself "is 1583 (fictitious sarcastic number) splinter groups of the body of Christ really what Christ had in mind for his church?" I can't believe so. In fact, the scripture says that as we come to a mature faith we will also come to a unity in faith. Therefore, splinters in our pride over the areas of how we express our relationship with Christ seem to me to be wrong at best and perhaps even sinful at times. Therefore, as we must eventually all succumb to handles in an effort to identify ourselves.... I find myself a Christology Universalist. That is to say that Christ is the issue: who he claimed to be, who he was in history, who he is today and who he is becoming through us. If we get Christology figured out in our heart and mind, then the Holy Spirit, through the Scripture and His life living in us....will guide our personal convictions concerning the testimonies of living our faith out in the world. Clear as mud? Probably. That is to say I don't think the modern Friends Church should identify itself through the traditional Friends Testimonies, but rather through the Living Presence of the Christ. Within those congregations of persons who love Christ supremely and love each other unconditionally, there may well be numerous commitments that are varied in the area of the historical Friends Testimonies. So, is Evangelistic Growth among Friends guided, affected, healthy or unhealthy because or due to the Friends Testimonies? My answer is that the two questions shouldn't be in the same comparison. oooops, that's probably not what you were wanting...

In my personal question--you ask how we were using Natural Church Development? We've had marginal success in restoring health to a few churches. We still offer it as one from a menu of options in church health. There are now new diagnostic tools available that don't need a license and don't look quite so "canned" in approach that our churches are using as well. Like anything else, it's a tool, one of human origin, therefore, is not perfect--but many times helpful.

Well, I've babbled on quite long enough. It's actually a day off and what better to do with such than expand the mind.

Blessings on your study. You may have privilege and license to forward this to others in the discussion. However, I am probably not schooled or wired in a way that cares to engage a much larger philosophical enterprise.

Yours, In Christ

Larry Kinser, EFCSW Staff

 
Johan 
(no login)
Thank you, Larry! February 14 2004, 3:08 AM 

Thanks for your response. This is one of the first responses I've seen on this forum site that brings in specific ideas on strategy. (But also see Ben Richmond's reply to the "four questions," - the fifth reply, I think.)

One of the most intriguing parts of your letter is where you call yourself a "Christology Universalist." A couple of reflections on that:

1) I immediately thought of Jim Healton's essay in this forum, "'Friends Testimonies' Are Really the Testimony that Jesus is the Christ."

2) Not yet having seen this message from you, I was participating yesterday in a Northwest Yearly Meeting pastors' Internet group discussion on worship (especially music, but the discussion had also touched on attitudes people bring to worship, and related topics.) In trying to explain why I'm such a minimalist in this area, with unprogrammed worship still an ideal for me even after over two decades in the pastoral Quaker world, I ended my contribution as follows:

"Here's the most obnoxious thing I'm going to say. The history of the church includes generations of simple and faithful discipleship, but every outward organizational arrangement - leadership, structure, liturgy, music, property, penance, etc - has been an arena for power struggles, one-upmanship, oppression of those not in favor, all the things that led Friends to revolt against the religion industry. We started out trying to throw out the bathwater and keep the Baby, but things are getting pretty soggy again. 

"I suggest that, whatever else we do, we need to revive our understanding that we left the official church structures to be faithful to Jesus Christ, to know him as our Messiah, our prophet, priest and king, to gather in community around him, to hold each other up with a tender hand in that community. And NOT to complicate that community with glitter, status, ceremony and clutter. If we Friends lose our transparency, (I say to myself with some real anxiety), where will I go?"

You are correct in saying that Christology comes first - our discipleship and our ecclesiology will follow if we have that straight. I also agree that the existence of hundreds or thousands of splinter groups doesn't feel like a product of faithfulness to Christ!

However, human beings can't be, do and learn everything simultaneously, so (with that Christology-is-first perspective in mind) perhaps it isn't so surprising that Christian communities are so diverse and fragmented. I just wish there was more mutual accountability between these groups.

Hopefully, each group and its subgroups (such as Friends and their yearly and local meetings; Baptists and their conventions and churches; Roman Catholics and their dioceses and parishes, etc.) has a history of discipleship that helps newcomers and the world know what discipleship actually LOOKS LIKE in the experience of that group. So, although you're right, the Living Presence of Christ is sufficient, people observably seem to need formation and models on the way to maturity in Christ. Just as people are more likely to speak in tongues in a Pentecostal community context, I believe they are more likely to live simply and nonviolently in a Quaker context. Simplicity and nonviolence should not replace the Living Presence of Christ as definitive of Friends or of Christians, but their presentation within the teaching voice of the church tells the believer that these are the kinds of transformations that result from wholehearted devotion to Christ.

Maybe I'm stubbornly clinging to this connection because I cannot deny evidence of huge failures in the Christian movement. Early pre-Constantine Christians made a radical impact on their neighbors, and thereby became a mass movement under the most difficult of circumstances. Nowadays we have millions - billions - of Christians in this world, including many world leaders, but we spend much of our time being decidedly BAD news to each other and our non-Christian neighbors. Is the problem that most of these Christians don't know the real presence of Christ and don't care to be open to the Holy Spirit, or do they have defective models of discipleship?

My rhetorical question isn't intended to exalt Quakers. We were a mass movement, too, in our early days, and much of our atrophy since then relates to the cultish substitution of watered-down testimonies for the headship of the living Christ, and the willingness to cultivate an in-grown community of spiritual aristocrats instead of working to make access to Christian community through our Quaker doors as universal as possible. 

I continue to be absolutely convinced that Friends MUST continue to hold up our teachings on the social and ethical consequences of conversion - it is an outrageous scandal that people can be cheerfully welcomed into the Church and made to feel no awkwardness about luxury, racism, sexism, addictions of ALL kinds (not just the ones it's safe to condemn), military service or support of military solutions to long-term issues of human estrangement. However, it is still an open question to me HOW our models and teachings on discipleship are to be applied in the practical processes of evangelism. In any case, if Friends are to be a factor in God's plan, our highest priority is to clear up our Christology.
 

Teresa Velasquez 
(no login)
Christianity March 30 2004, 2:31 PM 

Greetings Johan,

I was reading your responses at identity and evangelism on your web site. You wrote to Larry, "So, although you're right, the Living Presence of Christ is sufficient, people observably seem to need formation and models on the way to maturity in Christ". The living presence of Christ IN one is what changes a man and this only. If people need models to maturity in Christ, then Christ is not sufficient. Are you implying they are observing Christ IN those who are mature? Then can even an enemy copy behaviors and have no Light in him. As it is written, "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light".

Yet, we are growing up together in unity of faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ and are as any planting; God knows how plants do grow. Some are newly rooted, some have put forth the blade, or the ear, or the full ear. Do you suggest that newly rooted babes, or those who are older though not fully mature need a 'how to grow' model? Is this not why the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock"? Is He not the author and finisher of one's faith? He is the Bishop and Shepherd of our souls.

You also wrote, "or do they have defective models of discipleship"? 'People observably seem to need' other mediators and not Christ. The warnings (to the candlestick churches of Revelation) are failing to hold fast to the Truth or adding doctrines of men. There are a lot of weeds growing in 'Christian' churches whether they are false doctrines or false Christians. And these false things are not acceptable and will be cast out in the day of the harvest. If you follow men's modeling, might the Lord say, "I never knew you"? Do we not seek the city whose builder and maker is God? What God has pitched is an holy habitation founded upon the Rock. What men offer is built upon shifting sand.

We know that it is the love of the Truth that will keep us from being deluded by the errors of men. Too many men run to other men to teach them and they sit not at the feet of the Lord! They think or believe pastors/theologians have spent time finding the Truth so they rely on them to sell them the gospel which is a free gift. Is it not written, "A man who will not labor, neither shall he eat", and "Trust not in any brother"? 

When I consider the candlestick churches I see the Light, as the Son of Man, is among them, but the candlesticks have no Light without Him. They are as a sieve shaking out those who will follow the Way and the Truth, into the Light. Now, are we not commanded to, "Come out from among her" and to Sup with Him"? So while we may fellowship with one another, if we come not to the Light and live by it, we are still men most miserable. 

Perhaps, evangelism is directing men to the Light of the world by conduct and by conversation. So then, it is the Light that can bring Life to men, and, if the Light is IN men, it is not men evangelizing, but the Light. 

Hold fast to the Truth,

Teresa

  
Johan 
(no login)
Re: Christianity March 30 2004, 2:35 PM 

Dear Teresa,

Do you want your letter to be added to the discussion under Larry's and my letters? I think you have a valid point, and I see nothing divisive or argumentative in what you say.

This isn't to say that I agree with you! I want to suggest respectfully that you are spiritualizing human realities. Yes, Christ is sufficient, but Christ exerts authority and influence through the spiritual gifts of others in his Body. I had a rare conversion - I did accept Christ as he spoke to me through the Bible. This is not how most of the people I know became Christians - usually there was someone who led them outwardly, even as the Holy Spirit preceded that outward ministry. Yes, Jesus leads them and nurtures their growth, but he operates through the gifts he has distributed among his people ... including the gifts of evangelism, teaching, prophecy, the apostolic gift, and so on. Those gifts are there to build up the Body.

Models can be idols, or they can simply be teaching tools. Much of what passes for Quaker faith and practice in some circles is composed of models treated as idols - ancestor worship, more or less, along with the Quaker folkways that reinforce an unhealthy sense of specialness, even cultishness at times. That sort of model is not what I advocate. I simply mean that most of us are not meant to grow into the fullness of the stature of Christ on our own, it happens in community, and in that community (starting, hopefully, with our parents, although not in my case) we see connections being made between faith and practice that, in God's divine economy, reinforce inward leadings and the teachings of the Bible.

So the "author and finisher of our faith" works with us directly AND through others. What I want Friends to keep doing is to keep up the teaching voice of the church, directing people to the Head of the church and also teaching and exhorting them concerning the conduct (individually and as a community) of those whose Head is Christ. That ministry of teaching and exhorting that we do for each other does not pretend to speak with the full excellence of Christ; nevertheless, the exercise of these gifts is required for obedient discipleship.

Does that help, or do you still think I am introducing mediators?

One more personal note. I had a sister who was murdered at age fourteen by a drug dealer in Chicago. I found out many years later from my father that, at that drug dealer's trial, his mother approached my father with Christian tracts. So she was a Christian! Her son presumably grew up in a Christian home and still he grew up and became the murderer of my sister. I certainly do not know what happened on the path from little innocent baby to adult murderer, but I do know that that area of Chicago has no peace churches. The full Gospel witness as Friends understand it was not present in that community. The Lamb will have the victory regardless, but we are still supposed to be part of the Lamb's War.

Johan
 
 
Teresa Velasquez
(no login)
Re: Re: Christianity March 30 2004, 2:38 PM 

Greetings Johan,

You may post my communication. 

Last week I was sitting in a dark corner of my room reflecting on the Word and when I looked up I noticed a dim light in the corner of a television. I wondered at it because the television was off. As I looked more closely, I realized it was reflecting a small lamp's light 15 feet away. It occurred to me that this reflected light drew my attention to look for it's origination in another location.

This is what men may do as evangelism. They reflect the light of Christ in them, but it is the Light that must be seen. If I spent time at the feet of the light in the television, how could I reflect the true Light that comes from another place?

Have you considered Isaiah 4? It prophesies of these days. The seven women are the seven candlestick churches. These take the name 'Christian' to take away their reproach, but they refuse the doctrine of Truth and/or they refuse to put on the full armor of God. Is it not these women who lure men into their doors to overcome them? Thus, we are admonished to "Come out from among her lest you partake of her plagues".

Even as the Laodecian church is admonished, so do I. Sup with Him who can save you. Some of the reflected lights are darkness. If one is connected to the head, he is a member of the body. But if one is connected to a body, who can say who is head of it. Will not the son of perdition be revealed as the wicked one and all the members of his body? 

Gather, therefore unto Him, even Jesus Christ, the head (2Thes. 2:1).

Teresa
 
  
Johan 
(no login)
Re: Re: Christianity May 5 2004, 12:51 PM 

Dear Teresa,

I read your words, "Sup with Him who can save you. Some of the reflected lights are darkness. If one is connected to the head, he is a member of the body. But if one is connected to a body, who can say who is head of it. Will not the son of perdition be revealed as the wicked one and all the members of his body?" I understand what you are saying ... I think. However, you are using a form of English language that does not come naturally to most people I know.

In searching for adjectives for your language, I'd use such words as "stylized," "biblical," "old-fashioned" - nothing wrong with any of that, but it doesn't automatically convey the urgency and intensity of what you want to convey. Perhaps it is actually more effective than run-of-the-mill everyday English, because people will be attracted to the antique elegance, and ask more questions. William Bacon Evans of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting used his plain suits and plain speech (as almost the last prominent Philadephia Friend to use these things) to arouse interest in Friends and the Gospel. However, as with speaking in tongues, there needs to be an interpreter. "Sup with him who can save you" is probably impenetrable to most secular people, although it very much pertains to their actual situation.

And that's my point. Nothing wrong with using whatever language comes naturally to you. However, nobody's going to do any supping if they don't have someone who guides them toward the right banquet. (Unless you believe in predestination, and that human agency is actually useless, evangelists included.)

Johan
 
  
Teresa Velasquez
(no login)
Re: Re: Christianity May 11 2004, 12:08 PM 

Greetings Johan,

I found your commentary of my antique language interesting. You say my words are 'helpful even though you resist them'. Well I will tell you something about my words. They are not mine. If I spent the time, I could put 'a' scripture reference or up to 24 of them at the end of each thought or sentence. Here is a copy of a statement I have in the draft to you I never finished or sent:

"God may have scattered His people throughout the world/churches, but now He calls them to Himself to be taught by Him (Ez. 34). This is the everlasting covenant (Heb. 8:10-13, 10:15-17; Jer. 31:31-34, 32:37-40, 34:15-17; Ps. 25:8, 32:8, 51:12; Ro. 2:13-15; John 6:45, 14:26; 1John 2:27; Ne. 9:20; Mic. 5:5-7; 2Cor. 6:16; 1Thes. 4:9; Ez. 11:17-20; 34:15, 36:26-28; Eph. 4:14, 21; Gal. 1:12; Jas. 1:18; Matt. 23:8)".

No man can come to the Father except by the Son. And, no man can come to the Son except the Father 'draw' him. And the Son has said, "When I be lifted up from the earth I will 'draw' all men unto Me". God makes the 'initial invitation' to men to come to Him when He sends His Word unto the hearts of men. 

Since our Father is working and His Son is working to bring all men into their Spiritual kingdom, how can a man join in this endeavor? Is it not only by the Holy Spirit of Truth in him? And will not this new creature speak the Truth and walk in it? Thus, is the kingdom of God increased by Him.

What can a natural man do except confuse others with false doctrines and false practices? And some, thinking a natural man might impart to them something Spiritual, seek not God and ignore His invitations. I know a man with strong faith and continued growth who has not been confused by churchgoing. I inquired of him how he came to his faith and he said God taught him through observing nature's cycles, his life experiences, and his continued reflections on these. When we converse, I hear the Truth of the scriptures, he has never read, in his words! 

I read something about George Fox's struggles to find the Truth. After he was exhausted looking for God in the churches of men (who have mingled so many lies with bits of Truth), he went directly to God and found Him. It is no wonder I may sound similar to 'antique' quakers, I did the same thing! I wonder if you also have had this experience seeing you said you found your faith in God our Father by your own personal study of scriptures and not like others who profess to know Him from church.

Now, I do not say that men can not find true faith in the churches of men, for the Truth (as milk) is sprinkled among them. But how will a child continue to grow being fed the same milk diet forever? What about meat in due season? Consider Hebrews 5:12-14. Nature even teaches us: milk fed babies must be weaned. And when a human child is weaned he is now dependent upon his father to provide him his food. Is it not so with the children of God also?

We are told scriptures are given by the inspiration of God and are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. Why then would a man think he could 'mutually correct disciples'? Except it be with Truth gleaned from communication with God's Spirit?

Last night, I talked with my twin brother on the telephone and he told me he was going to speak to our sister about her behavior which he attributed to 'her' anger problem. Now, I asked him what value would there be in a man trying to correct an anger problem, a matter in the heart, in another person? Who can create a clean heart and renew a right Spirit in men? He responded, "Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me that is the work of the Holy Spirit". And then he himself was calmed because he let go of 'his' judgement of her. 

So, I would ask you, what true discipleship training can a man offer to others other than telling the Truth? And how shall they speak the Truth, if they have not learned it from the Holy Spirit? A lot of judgment goes on in the churches of men! Is it not the Truth that instructs, rather than the pointing out of behavior that should be corrected. If the inside of a man (his spirit) is not clean, how shall the outward behavior be truly cleansed? And no man can effect this inner change. Yet, we may pray for one another.

Have you ever found yourself in a church where you learn a Truth and men are offended when you share it, saying, "That's not part of what we believe"? A choice may come. Reject the Truth, or, hold fast to it. If a man has been corrected by the Holy Spirit, shall he quench the Spirit? God forbid. Now, it may not be of any consequence in attending any particular church, but when the leaders of some churches demand conformity to their beliefs and practices what shall a man do? Shall he not quietly leave to avoid discord? And what fellowship has light with darkness?

We see in the candlestick churches of Revelation some grave warnings about leadership, fellowship, false doctrines, compromise, life, and false riches. Is not the mystery of iniquity found within the churches? So, we must find the Truth from God and hold fast to it, but we need not run away from a church, if we are not forced to compromise the Truth, to swallow lies, or if we are still growing in Truth. For it is an easy place to find social fellowship where we might practice some private love to one another which is evident in the children of God. Nevertheless, we know God is not a respecter of persons and we should not practice greater care to churchgoers than we do towards the other people we meet in our everyday lives.

So, while it is true that our spiritual relationship with God must always be individual and personally transforming. The assurance we have this new spirit nature is manifested by our love for one another. Thereby we keep the commandments, LOVE GOD, and LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

You wrote: "there is a waiting, a dying to self, a feedback loop with the Holy Spirit, a deep listening, and a mutual accountability that is probably lacking in much of the religion industry". Have you not already agreed with my observation? For it is when we no longer seek our own will, but say unto the Father, Thy will be done, that He is able to send His Spirit so we may hear His still small voice. And this voice is not heard in the whirlwind of the pronouncements of the churches, but in each individual's heart who has come humbly to Him.

Johan,

Shall we tell the Truth, that God is our Father who loves us greatly, and if we believe that He is, we are His sons? And are not all men our brothers? Is not this faith the prerequisite to being born again? Is this not the Truth that sets men free to grow in love and Truth which comes from the Father?

If you see it not, this is the message OF Jesus Christ. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24; Heb. 11:6). Believe and receive Spiritual Life. For the Son prays the Father send the Comforter that He may abide with/in men forever (John 14:16). 

What gospel of the kingdom is more unifying than this? When we acknowledge God is our Father then all men are our brothers. Will we not love our brothers more than strangers? And all men may come to this knowledge. What good tidings of peace! 

Let the gospel of the kingdom be heard. It is the Father's will that we come to Him and know His love for us. He desires to provide His life giving Spirit to bring us closer to Him forever. And that we may love one another showing the fruits of the spirit He brings forth in us. 

I hope you are at rest in the peace of God,

Teresa
 
 
Johan 
(no login)
Re: Re: Christianity May 11 2004, 12:13 PM 

I'm glad for your patience. At first I thought you had a very rigid sense of what a relationship with God should look like, probably because I was reacting to the King James aroma of your words, and your use of 'men' and 'brothers' for people in general. Forgive my ignorant reaction! Most of the evangelical people I know are more likely to use such translations or paraphrases of the Bible as NIV and The Message, which proves nothing about their or my spiritual maturity.

You're still not directly addressing this point: "Probably the issue you and I may not understand in exactly the same way is precisely how to accomplish the 'handoff' - where evangelism ends and the evangelist is content to step back." Or perhaps, to use the biblical metaphor you used, when do we recognize that it is time for a new disciple to go beyond milk?

Johan
 

Teresa Velasquez
(no login)
Re: Re: Christianity May 11 2004, 12:23 PM 

Greetings Johan,

I wonder why you thought I had a very rigid sense of what a relationship with God should look like. He is our heavenly Father and we are a very diverse bunch of children. He does not entrust the care of His children to hired servants. He knows each one of us individually (even every hair on our heads). And He uses a variety of ways to get our attention, teach us Truth, and discipline some, as they may require.

I am raising grandchildren, 2 boys (4 and 7). One is very auditory and is a sequential learner, the other is more touchy-feely and a global learner. If I want to reach these 2 young men, I need to interact with them in a variety of, and, in different ways. It will be over time that I will see some type of common growth in them. But, they will remain unique. 

I will give them both opportunities in many different areas of endeavor, but I already know the auditory learner will do well in communication activities including music. My touchy-feely boy will prefer physical activities like sports and he will continue touching the pot to see if it is hot to learn. And when he screams when he gets burned then his brother may hear him and learn from it. They will also learn they are different from one another and they can not be treated the same, though they will learn many common things.

Now, if I as a parent recognize these children's individual learning styles, can we not see that our heavenly Father loves us more, and, He knows each person's heart and how to instruct them so they may grow in Truth? You know the kingdom of heaven was compared to a mustard seed that grows 'really' big. So for the root to feed it, there are 'too numerous to count' pathways to supply the needs of all of the new growth at the end of each path! Our Father is an amazing husbandman (farmer, worker)!

The common growth the Father seeks in His children is LOVE, which is to be like Him (God is love), as it is written, "Be ye holy as your Father in heaven is holy". Each child must accept, and then grow in, an individual relationship with Him. Our individual methods for manifesting that love may vary. 

A disabled elderly woman's children were grown and lived far away from her. She prayed for all of the children of God that they would grow in Truth and that she would also. One Son of God, a mailman, saw her struggle to get her mail and began visiting her daily with her mail in hand. She thanked him for the visit and the mail. And she gave him a drink of water at each visit. Another Son of God, came to visit regularly to observe whatever she might need and brought her some 'extra' produce from his garden or other goods. She always offered her visitor's a drink of water. One young Son of God was taking piano lessons and when his family member visited with the woman he played on her old piano. The woman's eyes twinkled in delight and so that Son came frequently to play her piano. 

One day the woman told her friend she felt bad that she was so blessed by others and she could never practice the love for one another that God desired. The friend embraced the woman and told her, "It is not so. Your prayers for your fellows is great love and did you not hear, 'whosoever shall give unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only' shows his love". 

It is a true observation that while we grow in love towards one another there is a reciprocal growth in faith. So the times of difficulties for one man may try his faith. Yet, it is a trial and test of love in another. Let us grow in leaps and bounds in these two, faith and love. But the greatest is love. For as the Father knows what we need before we ask, we may perceive our neighbor's need and fill it without his asking anyone except our Father in heaven. And then are we not One family? 

You wrote: "Probably the issue you and I may not understand in exactly the same way is precisely how to accomplish the 'handoff' – where evangelism ends and the evangelist is content to step back." So, how do 'you' understand how to accomplish the 'handoff'? Does it not depend upon what you define as evangelism (which is the origin of our communications)? By my definition there is never any hand off because it is God's Spirit that teaches men. Yet, may a man speak the Truth he has received in him. 

But, I see you desire to know when a man called a church evangelist has completed his teaching of another man and is content to step back. I don't see the evangelist ever makes this choice. If a learner leaves, will the evangelist chase him to bring him back or be content? Or, if the learner never leaves, will the evangelist tell him to go away or be content?

A sower (evangelist) can only throw seed around on different types of ground and this takes but a short time. If he loosened the soil, picked out the rocks, and kept the field free of weeds, he could sow seeds on good and ready soil and have a great harvest. But, the sower does not prepare the ground in another man's field. The ground (the hearts of men) is prepared by another and we know not how. 

When a baby is still hungry after being fed milk, he will make demands for what he needs. And, if he does not get the more substantial food he requires, his demands will diminish and he will be stunted in his growth, and perhaps, die. All a baby needs is his Father's care. The early (milk) provision is found throughout God's creation to be received. The heavens and earth declare, "He is". Will the child drink (believe) it or not? If he drinks it he will desire more and more provision, Truth. Only the Father knows what His children need.

If it seems to you to be of some help to our fellowman, you may post the things I have written to you.

I hope you are at rest in the peace of God,

Teresa

 
John Munson 
(Login jbmunson)
Evangelism and Growth May 6 2004, 4:56 PM 

I'm a little uncomfortable with marketing Evangelism. For me the goal is to demonstrate a life that manifests a close relationship with God. Living the Testimonies can do that in a way that no marketing plan can do. If we demonstrate our love of God and our love of our neighbor, people will want to know about us. 

Many times I have heard people say they really like what Quakers stand for, but it is just too hard. Among non-Quakers, we are often known as the people of peace. The people whose yea is yea and whose nay is nay. Perhaps that reputation is based more on the past than the present. 

For me the testimonies are an expression of Christ's gospel message. Do these things, and you do them in my name. If we really do them, people will join us. Not everybody. But many will.

There are churches dazzle the crowds, and bring in numbers. Huge numbers. But I am reminded of the parable of the sower. A church that is simply interested in growth can achieve it through a snazzy marketing plan. But is may be sowing on thin soil. When push comes to shove, how deep is the commitment, really, to walking in Jesus' footsteps? 

The words of a hymn go round in my head, "They will know that we are Christians by our love." Not by our attendance, or the number of services we have on Sunday morning. Not by the beauty of our stained glass or the number of pipes in our organ. By our love.
 
 
Johan 
(no login)
Growth, Evangelism and Love May 7 2004, 2:45 AM 

Hello, John! I'm looking forward to seeing you again soon.

My thoughts go in a number of directions based on your comments.

"For me the goal is to demonstrate a life that manifests a close relationship with God. Living the Testimonies can do that in a way that no marketing plan can do. If we demonstrate our love of God and our love of our neighbor, people will want to know about us." As I've probably said somewhere else, Friends ideally operate by the Alcoholics Anonymous principle of growth by "attraction, not promotion." AA does not hype itself, but those who practice the 12th step "... carry this message to alcoholics ...", which translated for Friends, I interpret as "carry this message to seekers and the spiritually oppressed." Effective carrying, I'd agree, consists first of all in living a life that manifests a close relationship with God. Secondly, those who are especially gifted in evangelism can be identified and empowered by their communities to do a more deliberate ministry of proclamation, as well as helping others in the community be more effective in their everyday carrying. A lot of harm has probably been done through telling people who are not gifted that they must labor at some stereotypical activity called "evangelism" for which they've simply not been called. Finally, AA as an organization puts a lot of effort into publicizing the access points for their groups, help lines for addicts, etc. We should, too. I think we can do this in a way that is contemporary and interesting without pandering and without making unfair comparisons to other spiritual communities.
"A church that is simply interested in growth can achieve it through a snazzy marketing plan. But is may be sowing on thin soil. When push comes to shove, how deep is the commitment, really, to walking in Jesus' footsteps?" This is the heart of the controversy around Yorba Linda Friends a few years ago ("A Glitzy Spin..." mentioned in the Forum item, "A Quaker Life editorial and a Los Angeles Times article"). People from Yorba Linda Friends pointed out that they did indeed have a wide funnel to draw people in, but that the funnel narrowed in Christian education classes and small groups, where people were exposed to Quaker testimonies and other ways to deepen ethically and spiritually. For me, the question isn't whether the church is large or small, or reflects one or another culture of worship, but whether the whole Gospel is presented and whether the Holy Spirit is trusted to guide the worshippers and worship leaders. There are practical ways to institutionalize these concerns, I think; for example:
keep the open worship truly open! (don't eliminate it, or fill it with organ music, or let it degenerate into announcements, or promote stereotypical personal testimonies as the sole mode of participation)
keep a healthy relationship with the yearly meeting and other churches; don't get ingrown and defensive

"'They will know that we are Christians by our love.' Not by our attendance, or the number of services we have on Sunday morning. Not by the beauty of our stained glass or the number of pipes in our organ. By our love." Evidence suggests that our meetings and churches have a lot of incredibly loving people, but also some people who are not able to express love, who need healing. I'd like to see more firm (loving) eldering of unloving behavior, more resources for healing, more safety to express need for healing, and more modeling of joy and love from public leaders. We need to learn ethical ways of being in conflict. Most of all, I want us to have a foundational commitment to each other's well-being.


Johan 
(no login)
Identity and evangelical-ness in the case of Northwest Yearly Meeting May 5 2004, 1:30 PM 

With permission, I reprint a further correspondence with Marv Mardock, who alludes to two issues within NWYM: Whether or not to stay in Friends World Committee for Consultation at the end of our initial trial period, and whether or not to add the word "evangelical" to the name of our Yearly Meeting. Speaking generally, those who are working to achieve this name change are also hoping to see the Yearly Meeting leave FWCC.

The first letter below was written by Marv to several leaders within the Yearly Meeting who are not convinced that the name should be changed. I've not listed all the addressees, since that information would go beyond the purposes of this forum.

From: MarvMard
Sent: 18 April 2004 21:37
To: [snip]
Subject: Identity and 2005

Hey Brothers,
   Let me talk to you once more about a question I may have raised with you earlier. I'm writing to the five of you because I believe you agree with our formal connection with FWCC and hope in a 2005 review that membership will be preserved.
   I interupt myself to say that recently a pastor who at the 2003 YM had challenged the stance of the Ad Hoc Committee recently made it a point to let me know privately that he agreed with the inclusion of "Evangelical" in our YM name. I was amazed and hope that he has been vocal about his feelings among those whom he influences.
   But back to my question. Why wouldn't you think it wise--if you have no great problem with the word "evangelical"--to give vocal support to that inclusion in the YM name? There is not consensus across the YM about FWCC membership, and 2005 is coming. Friends have been known as peace makers, but when you are saying "yes" to FWCC membership and at the same time saying little or saying "no" about the inclusion of Evangelical you seem very arbitrary and not builders of good will among those who do not agree with you about FWCC. And the position seems strange, knowing that NWYM will be cooperating with Evangelical FNA, Evangelical FI and Evangelical FM in the foreseeable future anyway.
   Can you help me understand your thinking?

Blessings,
Marvin Mardock 

*Johan, perhaps I shouldn't have included you in this memo since you did speak out for the name change at the 2003 YM.

In a message dated 4/18/04 4:20:37 PM, jo...@woodbrooke.org.uk writes:

Marvin - I do appreciate being in the circle of those who received this memo, because I would be very interested in understanding the objections to including the word "evangelical" in our name as a yearly meeting, and I really didn't have a chance last summer to hear any feedback (either way) for what I said at the men's banquet. ["What I said" is linked here.]

If there's one thing that has really, deeply impressed me during this past year here at Woodbrooke, it is the importance of clarity about the place of Christ in our theology and ecclesiology. The loss of that clarity among some Friends has been, in a word, disastrous. I want to suggest another point that may follow, but right now I'm just suggesting it for discussion, not stating it dogmatically: The clearer we are on the centrality of Christ, the more of a blessing we will be (and the more blessed we will be) in affiliations like FWCC, and the less we risk in such affiliations. I hesitate to state the corollary, but perhaps the less clear we are, the more risky those affiliations are - however, if we get shaky on our christology, issues such as our wider affiliations become trivial in importance.

It is a somewhat separate question to ask whether the inclusion of the word "evangelical" contributes to such clarity. Although my intuition is that it would, I honestly want to listen to what others feel.

Love,

Johan


From: MarvMard
Sent: 23 April 2004 19:40
Cc: [snip]
Subject: Re: Identity and 2005


Dear Johan,
   Thanks for your input. I am wondering when you will finish your sojourn and return to the new world. Hope things are going well for you.
   I was especially interested in your comment about clarity and "the place of Christ in our theology and ecclesiology," followed by your statement: "The loss of that clarity among some Friends has been, in a word, disastrous."
   Before I toss an idea for you to chew on, I am copying from some of my recent Friends General Conference rambling on the web. If the world wants to know who Quakers are they can quickly discover.

Where did Quakerism come from?

Quakerism started in England in the 1650s, during a time of civil war and religious turmoil. It grew out of the preaching of George Fox, who rejected the hierarchy and rituals of existing churches, and challenged all people to encounter God directly and to experience the Kingdom of Heaven as a present, living reality.

How many Quakers are there?

There are perhaps 300,000 Quakers in the world today, in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North and South America. About one third of all Quakers live in the United States and Canada.

Are Quakers Christians?

Not all of them. Quakerism has deep Christian roots, and most Quakers consider themselves Christian, but many do not. Quakers have always held that Christ as spirit is universally available, and has been at work since the beginning of creation. This "universalist" perspective is especially strong in the unprogrammed branch of Quakerism. Unprogrammed meetings are often characterized by great theological diversity, while still experiencing profound spiritual community.

How do Quakers view Christ?

Many Quakers see Jesus Christ as a great religious teacher, or someone inspired by God to live an exemplary life. Others see Christ as a source of salvation, although in a different sense than most other Christian churches. Quakerism is concerned with life in this world rather than the next, and has no theology of heaven and hell. George Fox taught that redemption through Christ and the Second Coming should not to be thought of as past and future events. Both can only be experienced in the present, as spiritual truth, independent of history. He believed that "Christ has come to teach his people himself," and that we can be as Adam was before the Fall if we open our hearts to the Inward Teacher.

Do Quakers have a creed?

No. Quakers have tried to avoid written creeds, especially in unprogrammed meetings. We want people to attend very carefully to what the Inward Guide is trying to open to them, and to express whatever truth they discover as honestly as they can in their own words. Pre-formulated statements can short-circuit this process and may hamper true spiritual growth.

   While this is old stuff to you and me, it is interesting that it is so readily available for people to better understand (??!!) who we are.
   My idea is also nothing new, but it relates to defining "identity." Definition is composed of two parts, classification and differentiation. The people of NWYM, by definition, are classified as Friends/Quakers--hardly a good classification since much of the world knows that those terms do not necessarily imply Christianity--but we can't make our classification "Christians" (as our Evangelical Friends brothers and sisters have done), however, and our differentiation "who are Friends" because of the muddiness of the term "Friends," which itself needs further definition. So we classify ourselves as Friends/Quakers and leave it up to our individual constituents to differentiate in the wake of Boise Statesman and Portland Oregonian articles: "Well, yes, we are Friends, but we are Friends who are Christians."
   Will "Evangelical" become that differentiating term here in the Northwest? Time will tell. Some churches have already incorporated the term at the local level, and, unless those who don't want "Evangelical" can come up with another better defining term, perhaps. At least the onus for clarifying our identity is on those who dislike "Evangelical": just being "Friends" is too confusing.

Blessings,
Marv


In a message dated 4/28/04 11:02:10 AM, jo...@woodbrooke.org.uk writes:

Hello! I'll be back June 15, and if calendar permits, I'll be at yearly meeting sessions at least part-time.

I have an intuition that there is more going on here than the simple merits of the idea of adding the word "evangelical" - but I just haven't had enough time in NWYM circles to figure out what it is.

Have some of the proponents of strengthening our evangelical identity burned their bridges by divisive or discourteous behavior in earlier controversies? I remember a certain meanness exhibited toward John Munson in connection with AFSC's displays at yearly meeting, for example. Are some of the same people who spoke unkindly about him behind his back (and to him, as well) associated with the anti-FWCC campaign, and perhaps now also linked in some people's minds with the present proposal to add the word "evangelical" to the YM's name?

If this is so, or even partially so, I hope we can decouple all of these issues. I don't remember you specifically being part of the uglier face of these campaigns, but some of those involved with the renewal mailing list are. In any case, I am enthusiastic about differentiating ourselves accurately in the Quaker world, and getting the Friends movement re-energized for evangelism that is prophetic and deeply Christ-directed. To do this it is not necessary to pour cold water on other people's parades, nor do we need to shut down communications channels with groups who share history and contemporary concerns with us. There is no heroism in denunciation, although there is often a thrill. The tendency toward uniformity, happy-talk and authoritarian leadership in some other evangelical Friends circles is not to my mind authentically evangelical.

A couple more words.... You say "just being Friends" is confusing. I may not understand correctly the context of your comment. For me, the name change would be for the purpose of clarity and community-building WITHIN the yearly meeting. In this sense, a name is like a miniature mission statement. For non-believers, I don't think it is an issue at all; I doubt that even one soul would be added or subtracted from the Kingdom based on the name of our yearly meeting. However (to venture into a different but related issue) I have no problem with letting local fellowships call themselves whatever they want, with or without the word "Friends" as long as they remain in a relationship of accountability to the yearly meeting and promote Friends faith and practice.

I badly want to add this series of communications to my Evangelism Project web site. Would that be okay?

Thanks,

Johan


From: MarvMard
Sent: 29 April 2004 05:33
Cc: [snip]
Subject: Re: Identity and 2005

Dear Johan,
   You certainly have my permission to include my remarks as a part of your study. Of the other addressees, I believe that Ken Comfort is the only one who has come on line, and I doubt if he would object.
   You are kind in your references to me, but I realize I have been quite outspoken. Several of us have seen our yearly meeting change from a leader in evangelism to an organization that has been characterized as a boat adrift, shrinking in membership and generally without the passion for revival. Since we have known much better days, it is only natural that we look for reasons. I don't have to lecture you about Friends history to make my point about not favoring formal membership in the FWCC. I say this, Johan, knowing that there are several good guys such as you who have a strong desire to keep FWCC ties in order to witness. I honor your desire but believe various contacts could be made on an informal basis without joining hands under the FWCC umbrella.
   I believe you are right and that many, maybe most, of those wanting "Evangelical" included in our yearly meeting name do not want us to continue FWCC membership after 2005 and would, even if an olive branch were extended from the pro-FWCC group, speak out against further membership. I also believe, however, that, since almost all of the NWYM members are admittedly evangelical anyway, if the pro-FWCC people would make an "Evangelical" name concession, the pro-FWCC group would find less opposition to continued membership in 2005. If a controlling group says "yes" to FWCC and "no" to Evangelical, this will only confirm to the pro-Evangelical group that it is time to "take a stand." I would not want to clerk that meeting!
   So far, my idea has gained little traction, perhaps because human nature tends to "want it all."
   But I have hopes, especially since we constantly (as you do) define ourselves as evangelicals and since Evangelical Friends Mission is doing so well under Chuck Mylander's leadership. Then, too, as 2005 nears, perhaps extending an olive branch will seem more doable. We'll see.

[snip]

Blessings,
Marv 

 
Johan 
(no login)
Re: Identity and evangelical-ness in the case of Northwest Yearly Meeting May 25 2004, 5:58 AM 

Dear Marv,

Your last response is most intriguing. I've been resting with it for a while, not wanting to answer too quickly, and not from a superficial cleverness.

Within NWYM circles a while back we had a discussion on the word "evangelical," so forgive me if what I'm saying now sounds like a tiresome revisit to that discussion, but for the sake of completeness on the "Evangelism and the Friends Testimonies" forum, I'd like to make just one or two points.

These thoughts were provoked by your saying, in connection with the 2005 business sessions (where we'll review our FWCC membership decision, if I am not mistaken), "if the pro-FWCC people would make an 'Evangelical' name concession, the pro-FWCC group would find less opposition to continued membership in 2005. If a controlling group says 'yes' to FWCC and 'no' to Evangelical, this will only confirm to the pro-Evangelical group that it is time to 'take a stand.'"

I find myself acutely in the middle of a conflict with people I respect on both sides of me. Actually, it's worse than that - I find myself not so much in the middle as on one side sometimes and on the other side sometimes. I'm frustrated by trying to understand a conflict where issues are linked that to my mind should not be linked. FWCC membership should not be linked to evangelical identity - for many yearly meetings worldwide who are both evangelical and linked to FWCC, this is not a concern at all - but I can't pretend that I don't see why they ARE linked. They are linked, at least in part, because of the people associated with these various positions.

For example, I was talking with a pastor I respect very much, who does not like the word "evangelical" and doesn't want it used in the name of the YM. She associates the word with narrowness, intolerance, and slick glibness in evangelism, and she believes it has negative associations for the young people on the periphery of her church. I understand these associations - I'm not naive - but I don't believe in surrendering a precious and powerful word because it has sometimes been misused. Even the word "Christian" has been encumbered with these problems, not to mention such words as "sin", "repentance", "salvation", "conversion" ... you can think of others. If we came up with soothing synonyms for all of these words, they too would be compromised, both by misuse by Christians and by the confusion sowed by the Author of Confusion. I would much prefer to use the words that have historic roots in the Church's best self-understanding, and resist the rot that sets in when we let the world decide what our boundaries are. My reasons for continuing to support the inclusion of the word "evangelical" with the name of our yearly meeting is simply because I believe in encouraging those in NWYM who have a joyful, positive, passionate, clear, creative commitment to the evangelical identity of Friends.

NOW ... this does NOT mean that I support the use of the word "evangelical" in order to slap down another faction of our yearly meeting. If I began to think that the only people who want to use that word officially in NWYM are (present company excepted!!!) narrow, intolerant, stuck in a mythical golden age, uncreative, pursuing personal vendettas, or fearful of the most abrasive egos among us, and unwilling to address the doubts of the "liberals" (speaking relatively!) with courtesy, then I'd have to dissociate myself from any connection with those people's campaign. I would STILL support the adoption of the word "evangelical," because I don't believe in linking unrelated issues, but I would also hope to be empowered to speak out against such unhelpful advocacy for the word. There is a mirror image here to the statement you made, "If a controlling group says 'yes' to FWCC and 'no' to Evangelical, this will only confirm to the pro-Evangelical group that it is time to 'take a stand.'" Here is the symmetry: If the pro-Evangelical group decided to "take a stand," this COULD simply confirm the suspicions of the others that the pro-Evangelicals personify the very features of evangelicalism that they suspected were there all along.

Instead, I would like to have the discussion go another way. I would like to decouple the FWCC issue entirely. FWCC should be judged on the basis of whether, on balance, this affiliation helps us be a more faithful body of Friends. Period. FWCC is in some ways a spiritual post office for Friends, part of our worldwide infrastructure, and is basically low-overhead. It will always be more valuable to some Friends than to others. At its best, it helps with global communications and consultations, lists, visitations, gossip control and crisis management, constantly keeping us honest in ways both easy and awkward. If we're not committed to its mission, it becomes sort of like a second helping of dessert (to quote the late Bob Vogel), nice but not really necessary. It is certainly not the source of compromise and contamination that some of its opponents seem to imply. I would not have given it ten happy years of my life if it were.

I want to decouple the FWCC issue in another way as well. I don't believe that we should be part of FWCC simply in order to have an evangelistic influence on other Friends. If, in being faithful, we do exercise such an influence, that's wonderful, but unless we deliberately want to make the rest of Quakerdom our mission field, that's not a good enough reason to be part of an association. What's more, as you imply, the formal relationship is not necessary in order to minister spiritually to Friends outside NWYM. So, again, the only criterion that I would use for FWCC membership is whether it helps us, as a whole, be more faithful.

The discussion I WOULD like to see around the world "evangelical" is parallel: Does the public identification of ourselves as "evangelical" help us, on balance, be more faithful? I believe it would - in dealing honestly with the issues around this word, and around our willingness to be identified as evangelical Christians, we would be dealing with major and marvelous and worthwhile questions:
How do we relate to the TRUE (not distorted) features of evangelicals, such as the centrality and divinity of Christ, the authoritative role of the Bible in our discernment and governance, and the urgency of evangelism?
How do we manifest this urgency? How do we prepare to make the Gospel real in pluralistic, multilingual, postmodern USA? How do we put the needs of those who have never heard of Friends and who NEED our peculiarly gracious, tender and consistent understanding of Christian faith to liberate them from spiritual and social oppression, ahead of our needs to keep rehearsing the same old intermural arguments?!
Can we have a creative, assertive, dynamic, mutually accountable relationship with other Evangelical Friends?
Similarly, can we be more deliberate about appropriating the wonderful creativity that is now being turned loose in the larger evangelical Christian world, including some sectors of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communities? This is a time in world history for us to esteem highly the Friends heritage of discipleship, but NOT a time to stay shut up inside a quakerish clubhouse, muttering the same old quakerish cliches.
If, after all this, you still think I can play a creative role in the NWYM conversation, please tell me.

Blessings,

Johan

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