Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Christian Faith and Pressure

I was pleased to be at my daughter's senior presentation at her college. She is a religion major and several classes and professors of religion come together each year for this presentation of the seniors. Of course, my daughter did an oustanding job.

I was reminded just how much I enjoy the intellectual debate and discussion that is a part of an academic setting. Many of these people were in religion class because they were moving on to some form of ministry or the other.

One student gave a paper on missionary outreach to China in a previous century. My daughter talked about John Wesley and Social Justice. Another student gave a report on what is called the "emerging church". I have looked into this myself. Defininig the emerging church is like nailing jello to the wall.

A fourth student gave a paper on salvation. He talked about it biblically and theologically, from his own perspective, of course.

I heard it again, this time from a Christian who is recovering from a fundamentalist background. He talked about being pressured into believing. He grew up in an environment in which the Bible was seen, and Christian faith, was seen as a rigid thing. He told about people who believed that they knew everything and had answers for everything.

He left that background and started to search- nothing unusual for a young person. In fact, it can be a good thing.

I have a friend who grew up in that kind of fundamentalist background. He felt oppressed by people who were claiming to be Christians but were very harsh in their practice of faith.

The young man presenting his paper said that he left this rigid background and that God brought him back to faith. Now he knew God to be a god of love.

Where we live, we are located close to a fundamentalist university that regularly sends out people to witness, as if their life depended on it. So, perfectly good Methodist Christians are often harrassed as if they are Christians. Therefore, any talk of evangelism turns them and others off.

Ok, I hear. I don't know any Methodists who do anything like arm-twisting, or pressuring. For us, Christian faith is about grace that comes from God in Christ. But, this grace doesn't just drop out of the sky. It is embodied in the church, in Christians in the world.

We are living in a culture is pressuring us toward unfaith, and toward a life of self-centeredness. We are pressured to this lifestyle every time we turn on television or read the paper or drive down the street.

Evangelism for us Methodists means that we use mouth and heart, body and spirit, all that we are and all that we have to bear witness to the love of God in Christ. Sometimes it means that we need to talk about it. Other times it means that we live it out in practice. At every time it means that we the way that God in Christ makes his appeal to the world. (2 Corinthians 5)

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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