Book Notice: “As You Go: Creating a Missional Culture of Gospel-Centered Students”

Thank you for having been about to ask. Yes, Alvin Reid has committed another act of Reid_As_you_goliterature. Dr. Reid, SEBTS professor of evangelism and student ministry, has published a new book As You Go: Creating A Missional Culture of Gospel-Centered Students (NavPress). Those of us who know Dr. Reid perceive in him a real passion both for gospel-centered ministry and for students. Fittingly, then, As You Go calls students and student ministry leaders to the same sort of passion.

The back cover of the book states the context and goal of the book:

“Today’s students long for a rich, meaningful faith. They want something more than a moral code and therapeutic worship that leaves them unsatisfied and uninspired. Speaker, author, and evangelism professor Alvin L. Reid reveals a key to capturing students’ hearts for life: a missional youth ministry. Through practical teaching and powerful application tools, discover how giving teens a grander purpose and vision and encouraging them to see all of life as a mission field transforms their faith, their lives, and the world.”

Reid’s proposal is a simple one: return student ministry to the biblical moorings any faithful ministry needs. Thus he offers four interrelated ways: a return to 1) God-centered theology and worship; 2) the gospel (“a radical, Christocentric transformation . . .” p. 19); 3) the goal that is to glorify God; and 4) the gathering, which is to connect teens to the whole congregation not just one another (pp. 18–21). For those who desire to glorify God in their church’s student ministry–as a student, student minister, pastor, or parent–this book will help them reach that goal. Follow the link above to pick up your copy.

Evangelicals Think About Sports The Way Augustine Thought About Sex

Evangelicals in general, and Baptists in particular, need to develop a theology of recreation and leisure. We really don’t know how to enjoy sports in a way that doesn’t afflict our conscience. For the most part, American Christians approach sporting events–such as the Super Bowl this Sunday–the way many Augustinians approach the physical aspects of the marital relationship. Augustine considered sex (i.e. sex within marriage) to be a necessary evil (Confessions 9.3). The physical relationship within marriage is necessary for the propagation of the human race, and the typical Christian does not have sufficient restraint anyway. Similarly, we suspect that our preoccupation with sports is probably wrong. But, hey, we live in a fallen world and watching the game is such a guilty pleasure.

Then we read the statements of Jesus (“We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work.” John 9:4) or we read about the exploits of Paul (“In labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing.” See 2 Cor 11:22-33). We start feeling guilty.

I’m reminded of an incident in the life of the remarkable missionary, C. T. Studd. Studd believed it a sin to take a day off, so he worked 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. His daughter and son-in-law worked for the same mission, and one day they dared to take a day of rest. Studd fired them. (Doreen Moore recounts this incident in Good Christians, Good Husbands?–a book I highly recommend). In a similar vein, evangelist D. L. Moody used to rail against the sin of reading a newspaper on Sunday. I could go on, but suffice it to say that Christians have always struggled  to balance our commitment and fervor for serving the kingdom with our body’s and spirit’s need for rest and relaxation.

Actually, I believe there is a place for leisure in the Christian life. Jesus–our example for life and how it is to be lived–made time for sleep, rest, weddings and good food (Mark 6:31). Somewhere between the extremes of aceticism (“everything is wrong”) and antinomianism (“anything goes”) is the healthly Christian life that enjoys all things in moderation before God. We need to think Christianly about sports and develop a good theology of rest and recreation. We still have some work to do (no pun intended) in developing our thinking about these matters. There is a right way to enjoy sports, games, and fun to the glory of God–even the Super Bowl.

This post is cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.comgame online rpg mobile

Killing Sprees—Is There a Common Theological Thread?

On Christmas Eve William Spengler set fire to his house. When firemen responded to the call, he ambushed them; killing two and wounding two others. That was the third time this month (December, ’12) that someone has gone on a horrific killing spree in America.

Spengler committed suicide; which is what Adam Lanza did after he killed 26 in Newtown on Dec 14. On Dec 12 in an Oregon mall, Jacob Tyler Roberts killed two and then took his own life. Back in 1999, the Columbine killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, also killed themselves. Thinking about this, I began to wonder how many “killing spree” killers ended their rampage in a similar manner. I was surprised at what I found.

A Wikipedia article provides a lists of what it calls “rampage killers”—those who have committed mass murder at schools, work, and other various places. Of those who perpetrate school massacres, the article gives a list of 15 murderers (a link to a longer list is available there). It turns out that of those 15, 13 committed suicide (one was killed by police). Only one out of the 15 allowed himself to be taken alive.

I admit that trying to be an armchair psychiatrist is a risky endeavor. I don’t pretend to have a clue about the motivations of such persons. I really can’t relate to them. No doubt each one committed suicide for a number of reasons. Maybe some were mentally ill or even insane. Perhaps others killed themselves as a last demonstration of hatred towards everyone and everything, including themselves. But I want to argue that their respective decisions to kill themselves were not made in a theological vacuum. In fact, they seem to be making a very strong collective statement about a shared belief system. They were avoiding accountability. They didn’t expect to face God.

They believed that by killing themselves they would not have to answer for their crimes. None of them thought that there was any type of judgment to come after death. They were theological nihilists. To put it in biblical terms, none of them feared God.

Or as the Apostle Paul puts it:

“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:15-18)

The portrayal of God as Judge and the theme of a coming Judgment Day run literally throughout the Bible. And Christians of earlier generations spoke regularly of an eventual divine reckoning. But today the notion has evaporated—and not just from the culture at large but from within the church. Think about it. When was the last time you heard a sermon devoted to the topic of divine judgment?

Yes, there are Islamic jihadists, suicide bombers, who kill people because they believe they are doing Allah a favor. But that fact goes to my point that one’s beliefs about ultimate truth really do guide one’s behavior. And there seems to be a common theological thread among killing spree killers. They’re not worried about God, judgment, or a place called hell.

Spengler, who also served 18 years for murdering his grandmother in 1980 with a hammer, left a suicide note. He made it clear why he set his house on fire: “I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down, and do what I like doing best, killing people.” Whatever pathologies are going on in the heads of people like Spengler, I can’t begin to imagine. But the theological underpinnings of their madness seem clear enough. There is no fear of God in their eyes.

This post is crossposted at www.theologyforthechurch.com