Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How a Church can Help their people Cultivate a Biblical Worldview Part #2

This is the second part of a two part series on cultivating biblical worldviews in the church. Below are five suggestions on how to do just that.

The first way to assist people in establishing biblical worldview is for a church to fast and pray for faithfulness of God’s Word among the people. The discipline of fasting is commanded by God. To be sure, the Bible has a lot to say about fasting. For instance, on one occasion someone posed the question to Jesus as to why he and his disciples didn’t fast. After all, fasting was done in the Old Testament so shouldn’t Jesus and his disciples do the same? Jesus replied to that question stating, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast” (Matt. 9:15). This statement by Jesus seems to suggest that the time for fasting wasn’t to be done during his earthly ministry, but the time for fasting is now. Therefore, to fast on behalf of the people to honor God with a biblical worldview is in fact honoring that command.

If this is true, and the time for fasting is now, what then is the rationale for fasting? To answer this question, one has to go no farther than the Book of Isaiah. In this book Isaiah outlines, according to Elmer Towns, nine different kinds of fasting. They are (1) to loose the chains of injustice, (2) untie the cords of the yoke, (3) set the oppressed free, (4) break every yoke (5) share your food with the hungry, (6) provide the poor wanderer with shelter, (7) [allow] light to break forth like the dawn, bring healing quickly, (8) allow righteousness go before you, (9) and allow the glory of the LORD be your rear guard. Towns takes the points that are mentioned in the aforementioned passage and correlates them with other passages in the Bible that coincides with each of the nine themes.

The type of fast that Towns mentions that applies to this type of situation is what he calls the Ezra fast. The Ezra fast correlates with the proposition mentioned in Isaiah that fasting unties the cords of the yoke. Thus, the purpose of this fast is “to solve problems, inviting the Holy Spirit’s aid in lifting loads and overcoming barriers that keep [one’s] self and [one’s] loved ones from walking joyfully with the Lord.” Of course, the reason for the absence of joyfulness in our context is the absence of a Christian worldview. After all, thinking like Jesus leads to all the blessings of a Christ centered life. Therefore, divine intervention is no doubt needed. So the battle to establish a Christian worldview is at its core is not an intellectual one but a spiritual one. This is why Paul said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). This battle must also be fought in prayer, and when fasting is also done, it makes our prayers that much more effective because our hearts are much more apt to be righteous causing us to pray with great faith. When one prays in faith, mountains can be removed.

The reason Ezra proclaimed a fast was to entreat God for an answer to his prayer and God responded. Ezra was in charge of restoring the Law of Moses after the exile. Because of Israel’s rebellion they were eventually driven into exile by the Lord. After a period of seventy years, God allowed a remnant to return and reestablish their homeland. They were to rebuild the city by permission from Artaxerxes. However, despite the permission to do so by the King, Israel still received opposition from other nations. “Burdened with embarrassment about having to ask the Persian king for an army to protect them, Ezra fasted and prayed for an answer.” He needed divine intervention if he hoped to be victorious.

Each church is different and the reasons for people not having a biblical worldview are also different. Therefore, it would behoove a congregation to seek wisdom from above regarding how to handle the problem thereby bringing deliverance to the people. The goal of the Ezra fast is to solve problems, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance is needed to know what to do. Therefore, a congregation should seek to attain, says Towns, problem solving eyes. One must see the problem from the perspective of God if one hopes to bring about a solution. To carry out his mandate Towns calls for the development of three problem-solving eyes, and the first of which is to have eyes that sees the positive. It is important not to start with a problem centered focus. After all, it is the all-powerful God who created the heavens and the earth one is petitioning for an answer to prayer. Therefore, one should approach the situation confident that God can intervene in this situation. However, sometimes people are spiritually blinded and need to have their eyes opened, which fasting helps to accomplish.

One also needs to eyes to see the people. After all, it is the people and their situations for which one is fasting. One is able, as one fasts, to be led by the Spirit regarding how to pray. This means one should pray for specific people and their specific situations, and divine help is needed to do that. Luckily, the Spirit of God grants us wisdom in regards to how to pray. The Apostle Paul affirms this idea when he says, “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Being led by the Spirit leads to answered prayer, and fasting makes being led much easier.

A Church Library
The second way to assist people to cultivate a biblical worldview is to have a church library. God calls His people to love him with not just all of their heart, but their mind as well, and reading is part of loving God with one’s minds. Furthermore, the discipline of reading helps to discipline the mind to think biblically, if one reads the right books. Virtues such as “wisdom, prudence, foresight, understanding, discernment, truthfulness, and studiousness, among others” are cultivated. As one ponders truths that are in the book, one learns the habit of thinking virtuously. One builds character and becomes the kind of person that God intended.

By reading, one cultivates the intellectual life, and, as W. Jay Wood correctly points out, “careful oversight over our intellectual lives is imperative of we are to think well, and thinking well is indispensible to living well.” The plea to cultivate the intellectual life may receive opposition from many in the congregation because some might say that the Christian faith is not about the head, it’s about the heart. This idea must be refuted. Such nonsensical thinking must be overcome if one hopes to cultivate a biblical worldview in the people. “Though not all are called to an intellectual vocation, all are called to pursue intellectual virtues.” Intangibles such as discernment and the wisdom one acquires from reading good books help parishioners to go a long way in developing a biblical worldview.

The goal in getting a congregation to read by having a church library is to get people seek wisdom. The Bible has a lot to say, particularly in Proverbs, about acquiring wisdom. For instance, Proverbs exhorts people to find wisdom because they will be blessed when they do (Prov. 3:13). Not only will wisdom bless it also helps to protect. It helps to save people from the ways of wicked men and women who are driven by perverse ways (Prov. 3:13). This is why Solomon urges the reader not to forsake wisdom because she will protect and watch over the person who seeks godly wisdom. Solomon sums up the pursuit of wisdom stating, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7). This is because “wise persons see the world from God’s perspective and are thus able to make the right judgments about matters of eternal significance.” As people seek godly wisdom they will not only acquire a biblical worldview, but will behave biblically as well.

Easy to Remember Slogans
A third way a church can help parishioners cultivate a biblical worldview is to offer an easy to remember framework for people in the congregation to use. In her book “Nancy Pearcey suggests that believers return to the book of Genesis to construct a Biblical worldview. She believes that a return to the Creation account in particular is essential because that’s where one finds out God’s original purpose for mankind. Here one finds a three part theme that becomes the biblical toolbox to construct a biblical worldview. The theme consists of Creation, The Fall, and Redemption. Ascertaining a proper view of Creation, the initial theme of Pearcey’s biblical toolbox, is vital because the answer to this question determines one’s entire worldview. By using this tool, it helps people see that God has an ideal in mind, but the Fall of man ruined this because of the Fall the mind is in rebellion toward God. “Theologians call this the ‘noetic effect’ of the Fall (the effect on the mind), and it subverts our ability to understand the world apart from God’s regenerating grace.” Sin erodes mankind’s ability to see things as God sees them so mankind needs redemption, which is the final phase of the three pronged approach to achieving a Christian worldview. This redemption is meant not just to function as simply salvation “only [for] our souls, while leaving our minds to function on their own. He redeems the whole person. Conversion is meant to give new direction to [ones] thoughts, emotions, will, and habits.” As one repents of sin, turns toward God, and diligently seeks to renew his mind, a biblical worldview will be cultivated.

To communicate the three pronged worldview to the church, it must be done creatively. One way to communicate this is to preach a series on these three topics and then do a six-week follow up study during small groups. This will ensure that the message will not just be heard, but by doing a six-week follow up study, the likelihood that this message will be internalized by church members will be much greater. It is one thing to hear these ideas in a sermon, but it is quite another thing to study the subject in depth in a small group format. By studying this subject in a venue that allows questions and discussion, the likelihood that the material will be learned is much greater.

A fourth way to is to have discipleship times such as Sunday school, small groups, men’s fellowships and women’s fellowship that are geared towards aggressively discipling people. This can only take place if the leader of each group assumes a shepherding role that focuses on serving as an under shepherd. This role assists the pastoral leadership in overseeing the people they have been entrusted into their care. This means they would be charged to spiritually nurture people in their groups as well as train, feed, and teach them the things of God, and even rebuke if absolutely necessary. To do this requires certain kinds of people to fulfill these roles. Consequently, it is absolutely imperative that these leaders “seek to be examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:3).

Faithfulness to the Process
A fifth and final way to help one’s congregation cultivate a Christian worldview is to simply be faithful to the process one chooses. The mindset for real change should be to think long term because real, lasting change will be a gradual process. Chances are, nine out of ten people in a given congregation don’t have a Christian worldview so one’s goals must be realistic. Consistency is the key here. There are no quick fixes. There are no groundbreaking programs that will bring about instant success. This is a war and it must be fought diligently under a carefully crafted strategy and stick with it. A congregation will become weary if the strategy changes often. This is not to say an occasional tweaking may be in order, buy constant change eventually becomes a detriment to success.

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