“What Mormons Believe” series

Series-Featured-ImageI’ve just completed a brief video series called “What Mormons Believe.” It’s designed to catalyze conversations in families and small groups, or with mentors or friends. The series covers 5 basic topics:

  • The nature of God
  • Scripture
  • The nature of human beings
  • What is salvation
  • What happens in eternity

The series was prepared for the resource web site pursueGOD.org. You can find it here. Each video is 5-8 minutes long, and there is a workbook to help you discuss what you learn. (Be sure to check out all the resources in the growing library at pursueGOD.org.)

This series definitely has its limitations. It’s just an introduction, so a great deal more could be said about each of these rich topics. It doesn’t give all of the biblical data on each subject, but just enough to put the LDS ideas presented into some context. And it’s not really about “what Mormons believe” because there is no single point of view shared by all Latter-day Saints. It’s more about what Mormonism and LDS authorities teach. But I’m hopeful that it can help you be better prepared to have informed, meaningful spiritual conversations with LDS friends and relatives.

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How churches succeed in reaching people far from God

Every church talks about the priority of reaching people for Christ. But many churches aren’t willing to make the changes that will actually change produce results.

The “Think Outside” Ministry Workshop will explore foundational perspectives and helpful practices to transform churches to greater effectiveness at reaching lost people with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Join us Saturday, February 7 from 8:30am-12:20pm followed by lunch with presenters. There is no cost to attend except for lunch afterwards.

SomaChurchmeeting

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Location: Alpine Church offices at       2564 Washington Blvd., Ogden Utah.

RSVP to Ross Anderson – utahadvance@gmail.com.   Don’t come alone! Bring someone from your leadership team to process ideas with.

8:30 Registration / Coffee / Fellowship

9:00 Session I: Perspectives on Effective Outreach:  A panel of experienced pastors will explore basic shifts in perspective necessary for churches to succeed at reaching lost people – based on Jesus’ own practice and mandate. This will include Q & A from the floor.

Moderator: Ross Anderson, Utah Advance Ministries

Panelists:   Fred Lopez, Hope Resurrected Church – Steve Bennetson, Alpine Church — Rene Melendez, Alpine Church, Latino Campus – Dave Elshaug, K2 the Church – Hope Taylor, International Leadership Embassy — and others (awaiting confirmation).

10:30 Session II:Practices for Effective Outreach
Our panel will explore helpful practices that churches might employ to succeed at reaching lost people. We are not promoting a particular ministry model, but want attendees to learn how to apply basic concepts to their own target audience.

11:50 Mixer  Panelists will be available throughout the room to answer questions and interact personally with attendees.

12:20 Lunch with Panelists  Each panelist (or pair of panelists) will go to a different nearby restaurant for lunch, to be available for additional conversation, encouragement and prayer. Attendees are welcome to go have lunch with any panelists they choose, if they wish. Participants pay for their own lunch.

RSVP TODAY to Ross Anderson – utahadvance@gmail.com.

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“THINK OUTSIDE” Ministry Workshop

On Saturday, February 7, I’m moderating a workshop designed to help church leaders think through the foundational perspectives and best practices that will propel their churches to succeed at reaching people who are far from God.

We’ve got a great panel of leaders from Utah ministries that “get it” when it comes to reaching lost people in our community.

To learn more, check out the details at lovingutah.org.

Be sure to recommend this FREE, half-day workshop to the pastor and/or leadership team at your church.

 

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Introducing pursueGOD.org

I’m on the team that is creating pursueGOD.org, a library of resources for making disciples. Our team creates new content as well as compiling content from around the internet. The resources are organized in TOPICS and SERIES.

A TOPIC is a quick introduction to some particular topic or issue. We link to various short videos and provide a discussion guide to help talk through them.

A SERIES is designed for Bible study groups, families, and mentors to use to explore a biblical subject in greater depth. The series are designed to go beyond mere knowledge, to help people share the truth with others and put it into practice in their lives. Many of the series are based on sermon series, and have accompanying materials for children and youth.

The site also has training materials to help Christians disciple other Christians and to help churches create and sustain a culture of discipleship. Be sure to check it out!

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Apologetics and cults

As I mentioned in a recent post, I was asked to do a series of lectures on “Cults and Apologetics” for the Church Birthing Matrix. This has me thinking about apologetics and its proper role in the Christian church and its witness.

What Is Apologetics?
The word “apologetics” comes from the ancient Greek word “apologia”, meaning “a verbal defense” (Phil 1:7; 1 Peter 3:15).  Apologetics is the branch of study that seeks to make a defense of the Christian faith against objections. This involves properly explaining what the Christian faith actually asserts, against false portrayals. It also involves giving reasons why the Christian faith is credible, specifically in response to attacks from its critics.

Apologetics as Boundary Maintenance
The Bible warns about false teachers and emphasizes the importance of testing truth claims (Matt 7:15; 1 John 4:1; 2 Peter 2; 1 Tim 4:1-3; Jude). Christian leaders are called to protect God’s people from false teachers (Acts 20:28-30) and to instruct those who oppose the truth (2 Tim 2:25-26). In light of this, apologetics is addressed not only to those who attack the Christian faith, but also to those who might be swayed from their faith by such attacks. Apologetics helps us determine who is legitimately part of the Christian family and who is not, in order to help discern whose message to hear and whose to reject – and why.

Apologetics as an Aid to Evangelism
Apologetics is not evangelism. Evangelism is declaring the good news of the offer of God’s gracious salvation in Jesus Christ. A defense of the faith is not the same as sharing the faith. Yet apologetics assists in the presentation of the good news by giving answers to honest questions. It can help the person considering the Christian message to understand the reasonableness of embracing the Christian faith.

Apologetics as an Attack
Apologetics often crosses the line into polemics, as arguments are mustered not only to defend and explain the faith, but to attack the faith of others. I call this “negative apologetics.” In the strictest sense, apologetics is about giving reasons why we believe. It is a response to attacks of others. When Christians go on the offensive against the beliefs of others, this goes beyond the biblical use of the word “apologia.” Yet there is a fine line. The biblical writers often attack false teachers. Peter calls them “unthinking animals” and “a disgrace and a stain” (2 Peter 2:12-13) – although he seems to be referring to a general type and doesn’t name any particular people. Also, to protect God’s people from false teachers seems to require that we point out specific flaws and problems of those teachings. Since Mormonism, for example, aggressively targets members of existing Christian churches for conversion, it makes sense to offer our church members a specific critique of LDS truth claims.

Evangelism / Apologetics / Polemic? A Biblical Pattern
I find it informative to see how the apostle Paul shared the good news of Jesus. Consider three examples from Acts 13-17. To a Jewish audience in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13), Paul appealed to the Jewish scriptures, to show how they were fulfilled in Jesus as the Messiah. He did not attack the prevalent Jewish understanding of the Bible to make his case. To a rural pagan audience in Lystra (Acts 14), Paul appealed to the common goodness of God as Creator. He did refer to the local worship customs as “worthless”, not as an insult but in the sense of “unable to save.” But his predominant message was that they could know the living God. Then, to a sophisticated pagan audience in Athens (Acts 17), Paul appealed to their inherent religious interest, and started with their “unknown God” to explain the general goodness of the true Creator. He quoted one of their own poets, leading to a declaration of Jesus’ resurrection. Again, Paul did not attack the beliefs of his audience even though many of them responded with open contempt.

We see more in Acts 19. In Ephesus, many people came to Christ in an experience of powerful divine transformation. The effect on the city was so radical that it threatened the economic status quo. The silversmiths, who created images of the gods, found their income threatened, so they began a riot against the Christians. But it was recognized by one of the city’s prominent leaders, in quelling the riot: “they have not spoken against our goddess” (Acts 19:35-37). Ephesus was the world center of Artemis worship. Devotion to Artemis was central to the entire cultural experience of the city. Clearly the worship of Artemis was contrary to God’s revealed truth. But whatever Paul said and did, somehow it was possible for the word of God to spread powerfully in Ephesus without a direct attack on the city’s most important deity.

Conclusion
Apologetics is important. We need to provide sound answers for spiritual seekers, as well as to protect our own people from falsehood. So there is a place to evaluate the truth claims of other faith groups. But Paul’s example strongly suggests that if we want to offer the good news of God’s grace in Jesus Christ to those outside the faith, negative apologetics (polemics) is not the way to do it.

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