The “Evangelical” Label

Warning: Rant Ahead

I answered a telephone survey yesterday for pastors. There were the standard questions about the size of my congregation, the percentage of adults in leadership, and others. However, towards the end of the survey, they started asking demographic questions, designed to put labels on me (to be charitable, I’m assuming that this is to give context to my answers, but that might not be the case at all.)

And the question came up: Are you an Evangelical?

Since I couldn’t see the text of the question, I didn’t know if the survey was asking if I was a member of the Captial E Evangelical Movement, or if I was a small-letter e evangelical. I had to take a few moments, and assume if they were asking if I was Captital E – to which I replied, “no, not anymore”.

The next question: Are you Mainline?

Well, I’m not nuts about label either! After a few moments, I answered, “yes.” And then I said, “Wait, are those the only two choices?”

I was telling my family about the phone survey, and my 16 year old daughter asked, “What *is* an Evangelical?”

My reply – and the reason I’m writing this blog entry – is worth some reflection on my part, and perhaps will be valuable for some of my readers.

I said:
“A Capital E Evangelical believes that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, and therefore is so concerned about people’s souls that they’re willing to try and influence culture as a whole in order to bring people to Jesus. That means that they’ll try to pass laws to regulate the behavior of people who are not yet followers of Jesus to *act as if they were*. In doing so, they try to make their surrounding culture SIMILAR to the Kingdom of God, without actually being a part of it.”

“Small-e evangelicals also believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, and therefore, try to introduce people to Jesus directly. They’re not about changing the culture; they’re about introducing people to Jesus, so that HE can change their hearts.”

“I’m not an Evangelical; I don’t want to change the culture to be more Christian-LIKE. I’m an evangelist: I just want people to come to Jesus, and I think it’s the work of individual followers of Jesus to introduce their friends and neighbors to Him.”

That’s part of the work of the church; to encourage those in the Kingdom of God to live and laugh and love so well that the outside world looks on in wonder at the changed hearts of those who follow Christ.

So – apparently, I’ve outed myself. I am no longer an Evangelical… but I’m more of an evangelist now than I ever was.

If this has sparked a question in you about *your* relationship with Christ, and has caused you to wonder where you stand with God, I’d love to talk with you about it. Leave a comment, message me, give me a phone call, or show up at Warden Community Church. I’d love to sit and talk with you over a good cup of coffee and an open Bible…

Pleasure, Work, Wisdom

Pleasure, Work, Wisdom Sermon Audio Here
Thoughts from the Teacher - a study in Ecclesiastes
Ecclesiastes 2:1-3; 9-11

Ask yourself: how do you take in:

The Purpose of Pleasure
What can we learn looking inside?

  • v1 we test our hearts; what is discovered?
  • v2 what is accomplished?
  • v3 take pleasure in fun, guided by wisdom?
  • v4-8 take pleasure in work?

The Worth of Work
How do we judge the value of our work?

  • v9 keep your head, no matter circumstances
  • v10 hard work give sense of accomplishment
  • v11 but it doesn’t last

=> Ever notice that when your cup of happiness is full, somebody always jogs your elbow?

The Warning of Wisdom
Is there an often-ignored danger here?

  • v1-3 hoarding wealth not same as accumulation
  • v4-5 injustice & self-indulgence connected in God’s economy
  • v6 power of judgment and sentencing is God’s alone

The worldling says—live to Pleasure as I die to God.’
The ascetic says—’I live to God as I die to Pleasure.’
The Christian says—’Lord, in my life, let both united be;
I live to Pleasure as I live to Thee.’

All This Is Temporary

All This Is Temporary Sermon Audio Here
Thoughts from the Teacher - a study in Ecclesiastes
Ecclesiastes 1:12-18
How can we prevent worldly distraction?

Think Carefully

Apply Ourselves to Learn Wisdom

Absorb Wisdom Together

Abide in Wisdom

It’s okay to appreciate solid information, or logical rhetoric, but at the core of it all, hold onto godly wisdom. LIVE in Christ.

Whatever Is Praiseworthy

Whatever Is Praiseworthy Sermon Audio Here
the Whatevers of Philippians 4:8
Ephesians 1:3-10

I have been working on memorizing Philippians 4:8 for about 30 years. I’ve had difficulty getting all fo the “whatevers” in order in my head. That’s one of the main reasons I decided on this sermon series – to help me wrap my head around the contents of Philippians 4:8. I found that I can remember the contents with the word “PEALPRiNT”. It’s the contents of the verse in backwards order. I turn PEALPRiNT around, to get T,N,R,P,L,A,E,P – True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, Praiseworthy. It might seem silly, but I find that coming up with little challenges like this really helps in memory work.

As we’re led to consider the last word in this verse, we ask:

What Prompts A Response of Praise?

Praise in the Presence of God
Psalm 85:8-13 ~ Psalm deals with what is needed for revival

  • v8 we listen for the Word of God
  • v9 remember: salvation is for God’s glory
  • v10-11 results of God’s presence with us: love, faithfulness, righteousness, & peace
  • v13 our borrowed righteousness prepares people for His presence

Praise for the Providence of God
Ephesians 1:3-6 ~  God looks out for us – for His sake!

  • v3 God gives every spiritual blessing
  • v4 first blessing is being chosen to receive holiness
  • v5 through adoption (His choice, not ours)
  • v6 He is worthy because of His gracious choice

Praise for the Purpose of God
Ephesians 1:7-10 ~ What does God intend for us?

  • v7 to buy us back into freedom from sin
  • v8 He knows our worth (even when we don’t)
  • v9 His work in us clues us in; we are being changed
  • v10 so that we will be brought to Christ for HIS glory

What is God’s most fervent desire? Reconciliation of the Lost with Him. “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me.”

Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, my brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if there is anything excellent or praiseworthy, let your mind dwell on these things.”

Taking the opportunity to teach

imageToday is my sister Janet’s birthday. She died a couple years ago, and has joined others in our family who have shuffled off their mortal coil: Mom, Dad, all my grandparents, my father-in-law, my nephew Norman, and I could go on.

indeed, that’s the challenge, isn’t it? To go on; to continue to live life as best you can, knowing that such important people are no longer a part of your living existence.

What brought on this moment of reflection, you ask? A blog post about a Korean cabbage dish called kimchi. You see, a wonderful nam from my congregation asked if I’d like some shredded cabbage – he and his wife are trying their hand at making sauerkraut, and they had some cabbage left over.

As a pastor, I have a personal rule to say “yes” if anyone offers to give my family food. God provides… often more than I could ask or think… because let me tell you, I would never have imagined THIS much cabbage. My friend gave us… oh, I’d guess between 5 and 7 GALLONS of shredded cabbage. A kitchen garbage sack, about half full!

I am *very grateful* for this kind of provision! and blessedly, it happens fairly frequently. But this bounty has gone beyond my knowledge of how to process this volume of cabbage… so I’ve been hunting for recipes and ideas. I’ve already put up 3 quarts of what it hope will turn into sauerkraut (we’ll see), and I’m going to set aside a bunch for tonight’s stir fry dinner. I still have about 2/5ths of a bag left, so I thought of kimchi.

At the end of this blog I’d found was a statement that made me feel as if I’d been punched in the gut: “No matter how many years I’ve been cooking, she still never misses a teachable moment. But, I know I am very blessed that she’s still around to do that.” 

So, let me take this opportunity to say: pour into the lives of those around you. Love them with your heart, of course, but also with your history, your experience, your wisdom, your favorite jokes or treasured memories. Take every opportunity to teach those around you -because as you do, you leave a piece of your heart and mind with them… And you get some of theirs back as well.

Whatever Is Excellent

Whatever Is Excellent Sermon Audio Here
the Whatevers of Philippians 4:8
2 Peter 1:1-7

The name Stradivarius is synonymous with fine violins. This is true because Antonius Stradivarius insisted that no instrument constructed in his shop be sold until it was as near perfection as human care and skill could make it. Stradivarius observed, “God needs violins to send His music into the world, and if any violins are defective God’s music will be spoiled.” His work philosophy was summed up in one sentence: “Other men will make other violins, but no man shall make a better one.”

As We Search For Whatever Is Excellent:

We See It In The Specific Act of Praise
Often used to describe the use of God’s power:

For our response of praise of God in Isaiah:

We Carry It In Our Consciousness of God’s Power
2 Peter 1:1-7 ~ We see God’s power in our knowledge of Him

  • v2 abundant grace through knowledge of God
  • v3 His empowering knowledge is sufficient for life
  • v4 we participate in God’s nature; we live on His turf
  • v5-7 “to add to”=epichorēgéō to add steps to the dance of life: aid, minister

Journalist Edwin Bliss once said, “The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.”

As we move through life, we Remember God’s Excellence in Praise, and we Dance Into the fullness of God’s Kingdom Through Knowledge.

Whatever Is Admirable

Whatever Is Admirable Sermon Audio Here
the Whatevers of Philippians 4:8
Romans 14:13-19

Phillippians 4:8 contains a number of words which are only found in Scripture once. This morning we’ll look at “whatever is admirable. The Greek word is “euphemos” (“eu”=good, “phemos”=word). This brings to mind the question:

How Do We Get At The Good Word?

Wonder About Wisdom
2 Chronicles 10:1-7: a young successor wonders what to say

  • v6 look for wise advice before making an answer
  • you may not have time: seek wisdom BEFORE it’s needed!
  • v7 kindness and caring goes a long way!

Interact About Issues
Romans 14:13-19: a church has interior squabbles

  • v13 each other; for those IN Christ
  • v15 how to know if distress occurs? Talk!
  • v17 actions NOT indicators of salvation (“only those who”)
  • v18 we serve Christ in righteousness, peace and joy
  • v19 we work at it!

Store The Good Stuff Inside
Luke 6:45: our speech displays our heart

  • What do you dwell on?
  • What do you talk about frequently?
  • Do others hear the work of God happening in you?

Pastor Ed Backell

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