CHURCH HISTORY & 3 pieces of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ

by Paul Ratner, Big Think, 12/24/18.

…Here are 3 kinds of evidence we have for the existence of Jesus Christ as at the very least a real person…

1. THE WRITINGS

…writes Dr. Simon Gathercole, a New Testament scholar from the University of Cambridge, in the Guardian.

The letters of the apostle Paul from about AD 50-60 are the earliest texts mentioning Jesus and the doctrines of Christianity. They also contained practical instructions for the growing number of Christians on how to live according to their faith.

The first non-Christian writer to talk about Jesus was the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (born Yosef ben Matityahu),who lived around AD 47-100. He referred to Christ in his history of Judaism “Jewish Antiquities” from AD 93. In the book, Jesus comes up twice – once in a curious passage about Jesus’s supposed brother James and in another paragraph that has since been questioned in its authenticity. Historians think it has been altered by Christians several centuries later who wanted to portray Jesus in a better light. Here is that passage coming from Antiquities 18:3:3:

“There was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

Roman historians Pliny and Tacitus also wrote about Jesus Christ about 20 years after Josephus’s book. The “Annals” by Tacitus from AD 115 mentioned the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate executing Jesus, alluding to crucifixion, and placed that event within the timeframe that agrees with Christian gospels. As you can also see in this excerpt, Tacitus was not a big fan of the Christians:

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called “Chrestians” by the populace,” wrote Tacitus.” Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”

Pliny the Younger, who was also governor in Asia Minor, wrote letters to Emperor Trajan around AD 112 describing Christians worshipping Jesus as a God:

“They (Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food, but of an ordinary and innocent kind ,” wrote Pliny in Epistles 10.96.

2. THE EYEWITNESSES

According to Dr. Gathercole, the earliest Christian writings on Jesus come from the epistles of Paul. The first of these date to no later than within 25 years of Jesus’s death (AD 50-60). On the other hand, biographical accounts of Jesus in the New Testament date from around 40 years after Jesus’s death. Still, these time spans mean that accounts of Jesus’s life were written down by people who would have been alive to know him or the people who knew him personally.

The accounts of the witnesses also correspond quite well to what other sources of information tell us about the life in the Palestine of the first century. For example, having large crowds coming to a healer like Jesus is confirmed through archaeology, which tells us that residents of the area had to contend with diseases like leprosy and tuberculosis. A study of burials in Roman Palestine by archaeologist Byron McCane revealed that between two-thirds and three-quarters of the graves they looked at had remains of children and adolescents. McCane underscored the prevalence of childhood mortality at the time, explaining that “during Jesus’ time, getting past 15 was apparently the trick.”

Of course, just having the details of the environment right doesn’t prove that Jesus Christ existed. Dr. Gathercole, thinks it just wouldn’t make sense for the writers of the time to create such an elaborate character, stating: “It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish saviour figure in a time and place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Judaism.”

This sentiment is supported by Byron McCane, an archaeologist and history professor at Florida Atlantic University who said in an interview with National Geographic that he “can think of no other example who fits into their time and place so well but people say doesn’t exist.” In other words, it would be rather unprecedented for such a person to be made up.

3. THE ARTIFACTS

Read more at … https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/3-pieces-of-historical-evidence-jesus-christ-existed

CHRISTMAS & How carols can open the door for dialogue – from the pen of my friend and colleague: Denn.

Do you hear what I hear?  Actually, the question should be, do they hear what I hear?  The other day while strolling through Walmart I heard a traditional Christmas Carol being played and if people had listened they would have heard of a virgin birth, celestial choirs and the birth of Jesus.  But how many people actually listened to the words that were being sung?  I would suspect that for many the words of the song sounded much like Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice.  Just a mumble of sounds.

Every year millions of Canadians hear the words of the Christmas story sung in stores and on the radio and yet I have never heard of anyone who points to Christmas songs being sung in public as their point of salvation.

I wonder if Jesus was thinking of Christmas when he said, ‘When they look, they won’t really see. When they hear, they won’t understand.’?

But at Christmas we have an incredible opportunity to leverage those songs and to tell people that there’s a lot more to the story.

And while I’ve never heard of anyone who became a follower of Jesus because of the words of a Christmas song, I’ve met countless who were introduced to Jesus by the words of a friend.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Read more at … https://mailchi.mp/0ff1fbdc9fd2/penn-of-denn-dec-12?e=933e1a0279

CHRISTMAS EVE & Non-Christians are more likely to come to worship services on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year, including Easter. What churches are doing.

by Thom Rainer, Facts and Trends, 12/6/18.

…Non-Christians are more likely to come to worship services on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year, including Easter. Church leaders get it. They are putting more prayer, preparation, and strategic thinking into the services.

There are three popular times for the service. Whether a church has one or multiple Christmas Eve services, three times are more popular than others: later afternoon (typically for families with young children and for older adults); early evening (the more traditional time); and late evening (for empty nesters and families with teenage or grown children).

The services are traditional. They include traditional hymns and carols. They may include some time for the lighting of the final advent candle.

The services are brief. The typical length is 30 to 45 minutes.

The pastor’s message is brief. The typical length is 10 to 15 minutes.

Most churches include candlelight services. They are now expected by Christians and non-Christians alike.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/12/06/9-trends-in-christmas-eve-church-services/

COMMUNICATION & Researchers find it’s getting harder to talk about God #NewYorkTimes

by Jonathan Merritt, New York Times, 10/21/18.

More than 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to them. An overwhelming majority of people now say they don’t feel comfortable speaking about faith, most of the time.

… More than one-fifth of respondents admit they have not had a spiritual conversation at all in the past year. Six in 10 say they had a spiritual conversation only on rare occasions — either “once or twice” (29 percent) or “several times” (29 percent) in the past year. A paltry 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly.

But here’s the real shocker: Practicing Christians who attend church regularly aren’t faring much better. A mere 13 percent had a spiritual conversation once a week.

According to my survey, a range of internal conflicts is driving Americans from God-talk. Some said these types of conversations create tension or arguments (28 percent); others feel put off by how religion has been politicized (17 percent); others report not wanting to appear religious (7 percent), sound weird (6 percent) or seem extremist (5 percent). Whatever the reason, for most of us in this majority-Christian nation, our conversations almost never address the spirituality we claim is important.

A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology analyzed 50 terms associated with moral virtue. Language about the virtues Christians call the fruit of the spirit — words like “love,” “patience,” “gentleness” and “faithfulness” — has become much rarer. Humility words, like “modesty,” fell 52 percent. Compassion words, like “kindness,” dropped by 56 percent. Gratitude words, like “thankfulness,” declined 49 percent.

A decline in religious language and a decrease in spiritual conversation does not necessarily mean that we are in crisis, of course. But when you combine the data about the decline in religious rhetoric with an emerging body of research that reveals how much our linguistic landscape both reflects and affects our views, it provides ample cause for alarm.

Read more in the Dallas News reprint of the New York Times article here … https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/10/21/getting-harder-talk-god

CHURCH CHANGE SECRETS & Number 5: Listen to the naysayers, even though they may not be part of your guiding coalition, your coalition should hear them out.  This is a step that if overlooked, will usually splinter the congregation. – Bob Whitesel DMin PhD in his book: re:MIX – Transitioning your church to living color, Abingdon Press, 2017)

CHANGE & Why it won’t happen unless you understand the important difference between “mission” & “vision.”

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., excerpted from an address delivered to the Great Commission Research Network (GCRN), Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017.

“How Changing Generations … Change: Harnessing the Differences Between Generations and Their Approaches to Change.”

Abstract

This article will compare and contrast two leadership change strategies as observed in older generations (influenced by modernity) and younger generations (influenced by postmodernity). It will be suggested that modernist leadership strategies may focus more on command-and-control and vision. It will be further suggested that postmodern leaders may employ a more collaborative and mission-centric approach to change leadership. This latter approach will be shown to have been described in postmodern circles by organic metaphors and four conditions as set forth by organizational theorist Mary Jo Hatch. Subsequently, it will be suggested that the style of leadership embraced should depend upon the cultural context of the generational actors and the environment.

… Motivating by vision vs. motivating by mission

There is some confusion among practitioners regarding the difference between vision and mission. Kent Hunter and I, in an earlier book, sought to compare and contrast various ecclesial definitions of vision and mission and suggest an abridgment.[21]

George Barna[22] Elmer L. Towns[23]

 

Whitesel / Hunter[24]
Mission: A philosophic statement that under-girds the heart of your ministry. Your ministry emphasis and your church gifting. “What do we do” (and why do we do it, 2017)
Vision: A clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God, and based on an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances. Same as Barna. “Where do we believe God is calling our church to go in the future?”

My experience has been that older generations, influenced by modernity, typically emphasize the vision. By this, I mean they have a clear mental picture of the future and try to muster all of their forces to attain it. This can, and often does, result in a parade of different programs being promoted to the congregation which often – by their sheer frequency – overwhelms and wears out the congregants. Burnout is often the result.

I have noticed that younger generations are more likely to emphasize the mission that undergirds these various visions. This is perhaps because they have witnessed this in their parents’ congregations. According to Barna, a mission is “a philosophic statement that undergirds the heart of your ministry.”[25] This leads postmodern-influenced leaders to emphasize less the different programs that are being implemented and instead to motivate by stressing the mission behind them.

An interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today yields a useful example.[26] In the article, Nadella criticizes founding CEO Bill Gates for mixing up the difference between a mission and a vision. Nadella states, “It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal… When I joined the company in 1992, we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.”

“…we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.” – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today

Nadella was right because “putting a PC in every home” is not a mission – it is a vision. It is something that can be reached, can be pictured in your mind and is temporally bound. You can see a vision in your mind. You can envision every house having a PC computer. That is why every house today doesn’t have an IBM PC. Instead, many have Apple Macs.

A mission, however, drives the company and its values, therefore shaping its decisions. It is much bigger and grander than a vision.

When Steve Jobs was luring John Scully from PepsiCo to become CEO of Apple, Jobs shared a mission, not a vision, saying: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”[27]

A mission is just like that. It is exciting, world-changing … but somewhat imprecise so it could manifest in many different outcomes (i.e. visions). It is also not temporally bound, like “putting a PC in every home.” A mission drives your values and decisions through many different projects.

Apple’s mission reminds me of the trend I see in my youthful seminary students to emphasize mission over vision. They correctly understand that mission can be realized in many different visions. Apple’s mission would be realized in varied visions including: the vision to revolutionize the way music is purchased via iTunes, the vision to miniaturize the computer into a handheld device, etc. The result is that Apple devotees have a passion that IBM followers don’t. Apple has an ongoing mission that continues to be realized in various visions. As a result, the clarity of Apple’s mission, best exemplified in Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, unleashes a passion in its followers.[28]

Best practices for the church: When leading younger leaders, it may be helpful to emphasize the mission while letting many subcategories of vision come and go as opportunity rises and wanes. The younger generations appear to want to be reminded of the mission but allowed to create multiple visions of how it may be carried out. They don’t want to stick to one idea or tactic, but rather one mission. Therefore, the mission becomes more important than a time and measurement constrained vision which often influenced their parents’ church.

The tip of an iceberg

These approaches to change are just the tip of an iceberg of divergences between the leadership modality of the modernist and postmodernist. I’ve compared and contrasted more areas in my Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. The reader may be interested in how I delve into the striking difference regarding how younger generations offset the disadvantages of homogeneity. For a thorough investigation of the distinctions between modern and postmodern leadership, I would encourage the reader to consult this volume.

[1] The Atlantic magazine, March 25, 2014.

[2] Generation Z has been suggested as the descriptor for this generation by the New York Times, see Sabrina Tavernise, “A Younger Generation is Being Born in Which Minorities are the Majority,” New York Times, May 17, 2012.

[3] Bob Whitesel, “Toward a Holistic in Postmodernal Theory of Change: The Four-forces Model of Change as Reflected in Church Growth Movement Literature,” The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth, Fall 2008.

[4] Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 53-56.

[5] Eddie Gibbs in Church Next (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 23) explains that though Frederico de Onis created the term “postmodern” in the 1930s it was not until the 1960s that it gained popularity due to its use by art critics.

[6] Emil Bruner, trans. Harold Knight, The Misunderstanding of the Church (London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), pp. 15-18.

[7] Mary Joe Hatch, Organizational Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 53-54.

[8] While Hatch utilizes the term requisite harmony, I have substituted the helpful term dissonant harmony as employed by Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822. I have applied the Dyke-Starke model to the church in Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It(Abingdon Press, 2003).

[9] Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979), pp. 113.

[10] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, op. cit., p. 120.

[11] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 92.

[12] See for the example the hedgehog versus Fox’s comparison in Abraham Zalesnik’s book, hedgehogs and foxes: character, leadership, and commanding organizations parentheses New York: Palm grave McMillan, 2008). Zalesnik use this is a metaphor of hedgehogs who live by unwavering rules with the more long-lived foxes who adapt to their environment..

[13] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago press, 1976), books 1 and 4.

[14] Quoted by Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The Democratic Experience (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp. 368-369

[15] Harrison Monarth, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009), p. 55.

[16] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822.

[17] For more on this seek Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change, And What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002) and the chapter titled “Go Slowly, Build Consensus and Succeed” in Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 151-169.

[18] Harvard Business Review (Boston: Harvard Business Press, January 2007).

[19] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, ibid., 44:812-813.

[20] ibid., 44:813-819.

[21] Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), p. 107.

[22]George Barna, The Power of Vision: How You Can Capture and Apply God’s Vision for Your Ministry (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1992), pp. 28, 38–39.

[23] Elmer L. Towns, Vision Day: Capturing the Power of Vision, (Lynchburg, Virginia; Church Growth Institute, 1994), pp. 24-25.

[24] Whitesel and Hunter, op. cit., p. 107.

[25] Barna, op. cit., p. 28.

[26] Marco della Cava, “Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is Counting on Culture Shock to Drive Growth,” USA Today, Feb. 20, 2017.

[27]John Sculley and John A. Byrne, Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple: A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future(New York: HarperCollins, 1987), p. 90.

[28] The 1984 Apple commercial is available on YouTube and is best described by MacWorld writer Adelia Cellini in the following: “Apple wanted the Mac to symbolize the idea of empowerment, with the ad showcasing the Mac as a tool for combating conformity and asserting originality. What better way to do that than have a striking blonde athlete take a sledgehammer to the face of that ultimate symbol of conformity, Big Brother?” “The Story Behind Apple’s “1984” TV commercial: Big Brother at 20,”MacWorld, 21 (1), p. 18.

Download the article here… ARTICLE Whitesel 2017 Changing Generations Change GCRJ GCRN 17.10.17

Bio

Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D. holds two doctorates from Fuller Seminary and is the former founding professor of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. A speaker/consultant on church health, organic outreach and multiethnic ministry, he is the award-winning author of 13 books published by national publishers. National magazines have stated: “Bob Whitesel is the change agent” (Ministry Today) and “Bob Whitesel is the key spokesperson on change in the church today” (Outreach Magazine). The faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary awarded him The Donald McGavran Award for outstanding scholarship in church growth and The Great Commission Research Network awarded him The Donald A. McGavran Award for outstanding leadership in church growth.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018 Theological Reflection Seminar #TheoReflect #GCRN #CLIOrlando2018

CHURCH PLANTING & Evangelistic effectiveness may be determined by if you are planting “FOR” evangelism or “FROM” evangelism. #CT

“How Evangelistically Effective is Church Planting?”

by Jeff Christopherson, Christianity Today 8/20/18

In 2002 pastor and author Tim Keller published a brief article entitled “Why Plant Churches” that has since become a staple regarding the necessity of church planting. In it, he writes, “The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city.”

His words echo the oft-quoted claim by C. Peter Wagner in his book Church Planting for a Greater Harvest: “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” Dramatic population increases, the rise of the “nones,” and pervasive church closures would seem to validate this claim, but is it true?

The answer is: It depends.

Church planting is evangelistically effective only to the degree that it is evangelistically focused from the beginning.

From my observation, church planters come in two sizes:

1) Those who plant churches “FOR” evangelism,and

2) Those who plant churches “FROM” evangelism.

At first glance, it might seem like an incidental distinction – but when it comes to evangelistic effectiveness, it is anything but. The former, with an eye toward speedier sustainability, throw everything at gathering a strong launch team, typically comprised of the “already churched.”

While this group is usually easier to congregationalize, this association comes with some complications that are difficult to overcome. The ease with which the planter convinces churchgoers to join his ‘better thing’ often correlates with the ease with which they will become discontented and initiate another hunt for a more suitable replacement at some point in the future.It is a rare planter that can keep his original “churched” launch team beyond two years.

Further, this population often has very few meaningful relationships outside of their evangelical subculture and are skeptical that personal evangelism is achievable amid the darkness that surrounds them. Disciple-making finds very few passionate advocates.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/august/how-evangelistically-effective-is-church-planting.html