This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature pointing out 3 stories of relevance to the Christian community, begins with the departure of a high-profile, yet controversial pastor from the church he founded, in order to devote more time to travel and to pursue new opportunities. Also, this week, a Christian charitable agency announced that it will no longer operate, leaving thousands who have depended on the low-cost food that it had provided searching for new sources of assistance. And, a group of Christian leaders took their message to churches and computers over the weekend, encouraging Christians to demonstrate Christ's character by making sound and "right" moral choices.
3 - Rob Bell steps down from Michigan pastorate
He's been an "out of the box" pastor for some time now, having founded a church in Michigan some 12 years ago, delighting readers and viewers with challenging and creative works. But, many thought that he may have pushed the envelope too far with his latest book, called, "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived", which explored heaven and hell, who goes there, and how to get there. Even though the book was a best-seller, it still proposed some questions and advanced some principles that made a number of evangelical leaders uncomfortable.
Mark Galli, Senior Managing Editor of Christianity Today, shared this analysis of Bell's book on The Meeting House on August 25th:
Galli is the author of "God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News is Better than 'Love Wins'".
Bell has now announced that he will be stepping down from his position as Senior Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan. The CT website had this release about Bell's decision. While it is unclear if the dubious success of "Love Wins" contributed to the decision, the church's release was complimentary and seemed to be supportive of Bell's new endeavors, which will apparently include speaking and development of resources. He'll be speaking in a nationwide tour starting in November.
"Love Wins" was a book that questioned some truths that have been embraced by Christians since, well, the time of Jesus. Jesus taught extensively about hell during His earthly ministry, and I believe the Scriptures make it clear about the atonement of Christ and its sufficiency for our salvation. One of the leading criticisms of Bell's book was that it seemed to teach that you could go to heaven without accepting Christ and that ultimately everyone gets there. But reviewers struggled with what Bell was actually saying. One of the positive aspects of "Love Wins" is that perhaps it gave the opportunity for us to examine our own beliefs about these questions of heaven and hell, and to provide a Biblical perspective on these important eternal destinations in conversations with those who might be confused or doubting.
2 - Angel Food Ministries announces its closing
The economic conditions of the past 3 years, that have resulted in a greater scope of needs for families across our nations and have forced families to reevaluate their spending habits, have claimed a high-profile charitable victim. This occurrence could result in thousands of families in need looking to other sources for help.
Angel Food Ministries, which provided groceries to families in bulk at a significantly lower cost than they would pay at grocery stores, could no longer keep up the pace and has announced that it will no longer operate. There were some other issues, such as an FBI investigation, and increased legal fees, that contributed to the organization's demise, according to this extensive article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Angel Food was founded 17 years ago by Monroe, Georgia pastor Joe Wingo and his wife, Linda. The idea was to buy food at a discount and then sell and distribute the food through a network of churches and volunteers. He would also provide a small donation back to the churches for their participation. Reportedly, some 5000 churches in around 45 states across America have been outlets for Angel Food. Now, thousands who have come to count on this monthly food delivery will have to examine other sources and pay a greater amount for their groceries during strained economic times. We can pray that perhaps God will raise up another ministry that will do a similar work and intervene in the lives of needy families.
1 - Colson, Christian leaders call on Christians to "Do the Right Thing"
Chuck Colson, the White House insider who turned into one of America's leading evangelicals, has said that the country is in an "ethical mess", and has built a Christ-centered message about the mess into a movement. The Colson Center for Christian Worldview sponsored a webcast that was hosted by a number of churches across the U.S. on September 24th. The webcast was based on a curriculum developed by the Center called, "Do the Right Thing", and featured a number of high-profile Christian leaders, including Colson and Dr. Robert George from Princeton University, who co-authored the Manhattan Declaration with Colson and Dr. Timothy George from Beeson Divinity School. Del Tackett, who developed "The Truth Project", and "Bonhoeffer" author Eric Metaxas were also part of the special event.
The Christian Post had this report.
Colson is hoping for Christians to be involved in an "ethics revolution", stepping up to do what's right even in the face of powerful temptations and incentives to do wrong. The Center has released a 6-part DVD series, dealing with topics such as:
How did we get into this mess?
Is there truth or a moral law that we can all know?
If we know what is right, can we do it?
What does it mean to be human, and why does it matter?
Ethics in the Market Place, and
Ethics in Public Life.
Colson encourages Christians to be actively introducing and discussing ideas consistent with absolute truth in the midst of a morally relativistic society, not in a way that is confrontational, but propositional. I believe that Christians who are living their lives to the glory of God, in obedience to Him, believing the Bible's teaching that there are indeed right and wrong actions, can make a powerful statement to the world around us as we simply do the right things and take the right actions.