According to Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, evangelism depends on the health and vibrancy of the local church.
The outspoken head of the Anglican communion, George Carey, is known for his evangelical faith and his evangelistic urgency. His denomination—along with others—has set aside the 1990s as a “decade of evangelism.” In this guest editorial, the one-hundred-third archbishop of Canterbury reflects on what that could mean.
At my enthronement as archbishop of Canterbury earlier this year, I chose for my text the familiar words of the apostle Paul: “Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel.” I chose it because my office is an apostolic office. Augustine, the first archbishop of Canterbury, came to England to evangelize. That was his apostolic intention; it is also mine.
In the urgent task of preaching Christ, Paul saw human need and despair, and the incomparable riches of Christ. The means of bringing them together was by proclamation. He was driven, just like Augustine, out into the world—into risk, conflict, and uncertainty—to live and die for the faith of Christ.
I believe such zeal is the backdrop to this “decade of evangelism.” And it is a challenge to churches tempted to settle for a costless, comfortable Christianity, to churches worshiping in a way that fails to meet the spiritual needs of the young, the intellectuals, and those groping for faith. The decade of evangelism is not only a challenge to the world—it is a challenge to the church to begin its own decade of regeneration.
What will it take for this “regeneration” to happen?
First, it will mean motivating the local church to be evangelistic. Important as evangelists such as Billy Graham, Michael Green, Michael Marshall, Leighton Ford, Luis Palau, and others are—and they are very important, indeed—their success is relative to the evangelism of the local church. Preaching is deprived of its power if the local church fails to be a nursery for young converts, a school for growing Christians, and a “military academy” for budding warriors. So we must assess our worship, our organizations—our very life—in terms of what they contribute to Christian mission. This does not mean we throw the church into feverish activism where all is measured by numbers and results. Rather, the evangelistic heart is formed by prayer, by waiting on God, and by the longing for more people to come to know Christ and his benefits.
Second, regeneration will mean new confidence in evangelistic preaching. I used to be terrified of preaching evangelistically because I did not believe I was called to be an evangelist. My attitude changed when I realized that God could use my gifts evangelistically. I am by nature a teacher, and I began to see that if I could not use teaching to draw people nearer to God then I wasn’t much of a teacher!
This led me to look again at Christ and the way he communicated. I saw his skill in using images to convey truth; his graphic way of challenging others by humor, by parables, by sometimes stopping short of the punch line. I began to see the crudeness of a lot of our preaching, the way we often overestimate people’s knowledge but underestimate their intelligence. It is not too much to hope and pray for a regeneration of intelligent, sensitive preaching that takes people seriously where they are—and throbs with a passion to lead them to God.
Enthusiasm for evangelism won’t amount to much if the hearts of those already in our churches are not recharged with the apostolic urgency and zeal that marked the apostle Paul. We need a regeneration of heart, mind, and will, so that others may see Christ in his people and perceive us to be a sacrament of his presence. Then, I suspect, they will believe.
Lust On The Job
Sexual harassment. Everybody is talking about it, and, as a result, we hope many fewer are doing it. The Thomas-Hill hearings, unfortunate forum though they were, created a heightened awareness of long-standing abuses.
Christians ought not to wait for the courts and Congress to define appropriate conduct in the workplace. While some senators seemed startled that sexual harassment occurs in so many forms day after day, it should not surprise us. The Scriptures make perfectly clear what an unholy alliance sex and power can form in a world of sinful persons.
King David may be the prime example of one who abused power in pursuit of sexual conquest. With bitter tears, he sought and received God’s forgiveness, and he taught us how treacherous human depravity can be when abusing the gift of sexuality. The lesson should not be lost on anyone, especially those entrusted by God with leadership.
Potiphar’s wife likewise abused her power by persistently trying to seduce her husband’s deputy, threatening Joseph’s employment security. But Joseph was a model of chastity and integrity, ultimately risking his life. To all victims of sexual harassment, whether in grievously blatant forms or more insidious and subtle varieties, Joseph’s story says, “Have courage, resist, and confront the aggressor.” As Christians, we must stand by them.
It is illegal and morally reprehensible for someone in a position of authority to demand from someone who is vulnerable sexual favors in exchange for employment or advancement. For too long, however, our society has tolerated shenanigans that make the workplace a hostile and demeaning environment for many women. Suggestive comments, smutty jokes, unwelcome touching, and lustful leering have been condoned because “that’s just the way it is.” Civility and decency have been violated with little public outcry.
As Christians, our protest against this kind of conduct has been too feeble. Not wanting to be regarded as prudes and busybodies, we have looked the other way—even joined in the snickering. But recall how Jesus described leering lechers engaging in illicit erotic fantasies: “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Let’s find the courage to bring this standard to bear on our job sites and in our professional relationships.
In addition, we ought to expose the hypocrisy of our society. Pundits and politicians feign horror over incidents of sexual harassment. But they apparently see no relationship to the commercialization of sensuality in every aspect of contemporary culture. “Consenting adults” have been given unlimited hunting licenses to pursue their sexual objectives. In the face of that so-called freedom, it is hard to impose what must seem to be “unnatural” restraints on runaway libidos.
Sadly, sexual harassment is not confined to the secular work place. It is too frequently a blight on our churches and Christian agencies, with devastating consequences.
Churches and Christian organizations are heavily dependent on volunteers. And ministries are communities built on trust. For these reasons, it may be more difficult to establish standards and monitor behavior—but it is no less necessary. The courts are holding churches liable for the results of abuse. But even without that incentive, love for God and fellow human beings should spur church officers and ministry boards to exercise greater vigilance.
We who are in ministry must make covenants of mutual accountability. We intensely need each other because our capacity for rationalization and self-deception is great. The Scriptures call us to correct one another with gentleness, wisdom, and love. As shepherds, we must not only keep the wolf of sexual harassment from the flock, we must also protect our fellow shepherds and shepherdesses.
By George Brushaber.
Civil Rights Gets Religion
An unexpected boon of the Thomas-Hill spectacle was the Civil Rights Act of 1991. In the aftermath, Congress was in the mood to pass civil-rights legislation, and the President was in no mood to veto it as long as he could claim it was not a quota bill.
The act allows for redress when hiring practices not related to the job in question result in “disparate impact”—a work force that does not mirror the racial, sexual, or religious make-up of a community.
Did we say “religious”? Yes. Members of a religious group now have the standing to sue if it can be shown that a hiring practice has discriminated against them on the basis of religion. This is unlikely to bring a flood of new religious-liberty cases to the courts. The act requires that the complaining party prove intentional discrimination—and that is difficult to do.
Unfortunately, the language of the act may not have been the best way to signal concern about religious discrimination. Until now, employers have been unable to ask about a job candidate’s religion without risking a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. That fact has not changed, but somehow employers must now make sure they are not excluding a religious group in their community. Catch-22.
The real problem in religious discrimination in the work place is not “disparate impact,” but accommodating the requirements of religion: the Sabbath of Jews and Adventists, for example, or the headwear and facial hair of Sikhs and Orthodox Jews. Two key court decisions have weakened the requirement that employers make a reasonable attempt to accommodate employees’ religious practices. Congress would have done us all a favor if it had (a) omitted religion from disparate impact analysis, and (b) added a section on religious accommodation to the act.
But, for good or ill, the political fullness of time had come for a Civil Rights Act. For once, Congress seized the day and dealt with civil rights, America’s perpetually unfinished business.
By David Neff.
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