Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

A Practical View of Real Christianity

“[It is] impossible to tell from a typical sermon whether the preacher [is] a follower of Confucius, Muhammad, or Jesus Christ.”

Sir William Blackstone made this statement over 200 years ago “after visiting the churches of every major clergyman in London,” reports Chuck Stetson in his 2007 foreword to the reprint of William Wilberforce’s A Practical View of Real Christianity.

What led to Blackstone’s comment? For one thing, in 1661, punitive and vicious anti-Puritan legislation was passed by the British Parliament. As a result, priests who were Puritans (1/5th of all British clergy) were expelled from the Church of England.

By the time Blackstone toured London's churches in the 1700s, he “did not hear a single discourse which had more Christianity in it than the writings of Cicero,” writes Stetson.

But in 1739, John Wesley (1703-1791), his heart having been “strangely warmed” by the Holy Spirit, began to preach a different message in open-air meetings. Over the next fifty years, Wesley commissioned many preachers who were not ordained or licensed by the Church of England.

At the same time, Wesley encouraged small groups of believers to meet for the strengthening of their faith. Wesley’s new small group “method” of discipleship became a hallmark of “Methodism.” Sometimes persecution produces wonderful things, as was the case in early 20th Century Korea, when the Japanese imprisoned Korean believers who would not bow the knee to the Emperor.

Forty-seven years later, in 1786, when the "Methodist" movement was in high gear, William Wilberforce experienced his own personal spiritual awakening, just five years before Wesley passed on. Wilberforce called this his “great change.”

I wonder if William Wilberforce’s conversion would have occurred at all, apart from the spiritual awakening of 18th Century England in which John Wesley played such a significant role. I also wonder if Wilberforce’s “Clapham Circle” would have become a reality had it not been for Wesley's small group “method” whereby believers received encouragement in the practice of “real” Christianity," which they were not learning about in church.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Merry Olde England?

In the time of William Wilberforce, 25% of the single women in London were prostitutes. Liquor flowed so plentifully that it became known as the “Gin Age.”

Chuck Stetson, in the Foreword to a 2007 reprint of Wilberforce’s work, A Practical View of Real Christianity, writes that “gambling was a national obsession and ruined thousands.” And, “daylight fornication [was practiced] on the village green.” Stetson also writes of “auctioning one’s wife at a cattle market,” and “executions, known as Hanging Shows,” that “attracted huge crowds.”

Stetson writes: “…murder, general lawlessness, thieves and highwaymen were so prevalent that Horace Walpole warned, ‘One is forced to travel, even at noon, as if one were going to battle.’”

In addition, false signals were lit at night on the seashore to lure ships into rocks where the shipwrecks were plundered, with no regard for drowning sailors.

Merry Olde England?

William Wilberforce (who is Chuck Colson’s model and the model for the SALLT Academy I wrote about last week), was one of those followers of Christ who, like the 9-11 fire fighters, headed into the problem rather than away from it.

As a member of 18th Century British Parliament, Wilberforce was active in politics when converted to Christianity in his 20s. At first, he thought about leaving politics and going into “the ministry.” But John Newton, the former slave trader who wrote the words to Amazing Grace, persuaded Wilberforce that a strong follower of Christ was needed in Parliament. Thank God for Newton’s good advice!

Wilberforce is most famous for his tireless efforts to abolish slave trading in England. This was a goal that took twenty years to accomplish. But Wilberforce had a second stated mission in life: “the reformation of manners.”

Wilberforce was not talking about British table manners. He was referring to British culture. The culture described above. And this might be another reason Newton urged Wilberforce to use his influence as a follower of Christ in Parliament.

But there is more to the story of the reformation of Merry Olde England. God raised up another man whose name begins with W: John Wesley.

The stories of Wilberforce and Wesley go hand-in-glove. (To be continued.)

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Friday, October 16, 2009

The SALLT Academy

Recently I was invited by the former District Attorney of Oklahoma County, Wes Lane, to meet with a group of about twenty-five members of the Salt And Light Leadership Training Academy (SALLT), in Oklahoma City. I spent the day with them on October 9.

In my thirty years of teaching about biblical worldview, this is the most unusual group I've had the pleasure to address. Among its members are two sitting Oklahoma senators (one currently running for Lieutenant Governor), the County Commissioner, the President of Oklahoma Christian University, a former Miss America, an owner of the city’s baseball team, a member of the Oklahoma City School Board, the Director of the Oklahoma Memorial, prominent business leaders, numerous lawyers, and the list goes on.

The SALLT Academy is an eight-month curriculum in which members come together for one day per month to receive instruction, pray, and focus on city issues in light of the biblical worldview.

We spent the day looking at how to assess matters through the lens of a biblical worldview, and how to propose solutions to city challenges and opportunities that are specific, winsome and consistent with that worldview.

The group was very responsive to what was shared. By the end of the day, they were applying what they had learned to a particular issue that is facing one of their peers. It was truly an amazing thing to watch, and a privilege to be a part of it.

The model for the SALLT Academy is William Wilberforce, the 18th Century Christian who served in the British Parliament. By God's grace, Wilberforce, along with a small group of friends known as the "Clapham Circle," worked tirelessly to abolish slavery in Britain. They succeeded after 20 years of effort.

Wilberforce's Clapham Circle consisted of about ten followers of Christ who were businessmen, bankers, and politicians living in the village of Clapham, near London.

Wes Lane's vision is that many "Clapham Circles" will be spawned in Oklahoma City as a result of leaders' participation in the SALLT Academy curriculum.

Please remember Wes and the SALLT Academy in prayer. What is happening in Oklahoma City could be a model for other cities throughout the world. Pray that God will have His way in the development of the curriculum, and the birthing of "Clapham Circles" to follow.

For more about the SALLT Academy, see http://saltandlightleadership.com/

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Friday, October 9, 2009

The Engine That Pulls The Train

“We don’t find meaning in our work, we bring meaning to our work.”

These are the wise words of Bonnie Wurzbacher, Senior Vice President of Global Customers for the Coca-Cola Company, who is a dedicated follower of Christ.

Wurzbacher sees a divine intent for business. She actually sees her work (yes, her work with Coke) as fulfilling the purposes of God in the earth and advancing His Kingdom.

Really? Coke?

In a phone conversation I had with Bonnie last year, she explained it to me this way:

“I believe that anyone’s theology of work is understanding how what they do advances the Kingdom of God here on earth.

And business, I believe, does that in two ways: First of all, it contributes to the economic well-being of communities around the world, which allows everyone to use their God-given gifts and talents; and secondly, as the sole source of wealth creation in the world, it enables every other social, civic and even spiritual institutions to exist…through the taxes, and salaries and also the generous giving of businesses and of business people….”

Think about it. Churches do not create wealth. Their doors are kept open by the free-will giving of congregational members. Civil governments do not create wealth. Without a confiscatory tax system that withholds funds from people’s paychecks, all governments would fold. Schools don’t create wealth. They consume it. So do hospitals and non-profit organizations of all types.

Business is the engine that pulls the train on which every civil, social, and spiritual institution rides.

Bonnie is highlighted in the video of the month. To view, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ake9KgWyB9g

Last week I wrote about a special gathering for men in the Seattle area with Chuck Colson on the morning of October 21. This week I want to let women know about a special gathering for you on the evening of October 22, with Bonnie Wurzbacher.

Don't miss this, ladies! If you live in the greater Seattle area, I urge you to come to the “Women in the Workplace” event at Westminster Chapel in Bellevue to hear Bonnie speak.

Register on-line at http://www.westminster.org/connect/groups/women/special-events/, and forward this information to your friends by clicking the SHARE button below.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

A Great Simplifier

Albert Einstein said, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” And General Colin Powell once remarked, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers.”

Chuck Colson is a great leader because he understands the critical issues of our day and he is able to communicate in such a way that ordinary followers of Christ can grasp what is important and run with it. Colson is a great simplifier.

Maybe this comes from his experience in politics. I don’t know. But one thing is for sure, Colson is sounding a clear trumpet for the Body of Christ to “run toward the problem rather than away from it,” as I alluded to last week when I suggested Christian young people become loan officers.

But Colson is not just calling for Christian loan officers. He is calling for Christ-following scientists, politicians, lawyers, business leaders of all kinds, artists, musicians and educators. He is doing this by helping people to understand what a biblical worldview is and why it is critical to the future of civilization.

Serving in the White House as Richard Nixon's counsel from 1969-73, Colson’s own life was radically altered when he received Christ as his Lord and Savior during the turmoil of the Watergate affair. Then, after serving time in prison for his offenses, he founded Prison Fellowship Ministry.

Since then, he has worked tirelessly to restore a biblical worldview to people's way of thinking and living. He knows this is the most essential way to reverse the inflow of future inmates, and to make society a safer place to live.

Last December, Colson was called to the Oval Office once again. This time by President George W. Bush, who awarded him the Presidential Citizen's Medal--the second highest honor a president can bestow upon an American civilian.

On Wednesday, October 21, 6:30-8:00 am, Colson will be speaking at a men's rally in Bellevue, Washington, near Seattle. If you are a man living in this area, I urge you to reserve your seat at http://www.linkingshields.com/.

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