Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 1:46 PM
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Okay, so I am going to hold off on my review of Velvit Elvis for another day because right now everything has been pretty hectic with the move and the book is packed away anyway. As for our move...we made it here safely on Wednesday, May 21 around 4pm. We packed most of our stuff away in the garage of one of the Elders.
We love the church! The people are great and I had a terrific opportunity to go on a weekend retreat with the men of the church. The focus was prayer; so we had a great time in prayer as well as heard some EXCELLENT preaching on prayer. It was great for me to meet and connect with this group of very Godly men. Perhaps what is most amazing is the spiritual maturity of all the men in the church even the newer believers. The retreat was very refreshing for me. The men of each home congregation also meet together separately to study Scripture throughout the week and then every other 6 weeks all the men from the church get together to study while the other six weeks the women do. I will be preaching in one of the home congregations on June 16.
On the side bar I have linked our church and also Christian Communicators Worldwide (the teaching and writing ministry of Jim Elliff - one of the Elders) which is an EXCELLENT ministry. Now that we are getting little more settled I will be writing more often.
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 5:45 PM
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Sorry for the lack of posts recently. Life has been crazy but I will post a critique of Rob Bell's, Velvit Elvis soon.
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 12:59 PM
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Feel free to visit James website, jameschoung.net and jump in the conversation.
Trevor Holloway on April 8, 2008 at 11:54 am
James,I came across your work on IVP’s site and found the link to both of your Youtube videos. While as a believer I appreciate your call for people to follow the example of Jesus in loving one another, I must say that your presentation falls woefully short in adequetely explaining the true nature of the gospel. It seems as though you are overly focused on the social component (which unfortunately has been too long overlooked by many) while missing the primary message of the cross and resurrection which is forgiveness of sin. Your failure to even mention hell, sin, and eternal punishment misrepresents the incredible magnitude of the grace that God has given to us through the salvation that Christ offers. In avoiding some of these things and not taking the time to better explain the forgiveness component of the cross and resurrection which is the primary function (just read Romans) your presentation comes off more as, “let’s make the world a better place with a little of Jesus in the mix.” Further, and I am not sure if you did this purposely or just mispoke, at one point in your second video you said that we all will be living on the new earth and that is just not true. Scripture is VERY clear that only followers of Jesus will be dwelling in the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-27). Overall, your presentation really is not the gospel. It has parts of the gospel scattered in with some humanism. You seem to be calling people to try to make the world a better place through following Jesus’ teachings and example, rather that calling them to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). I apologize if I sound uncharitable or unloving for this is not my aim. I simply am a brother in Christ who cares deeply about the gospel and acurate proclamation of it for the sake of those who hear.
James Choung on April 9, 2008 at 2:03 pm
Hi Trevor –
Thanks for your thoughts. I hear your heart, and the desire to protect the truth and integrity of the gospel. And in that, there can be little blame.
But I’d be interested if you felt the same way after reading my book (or even the booklet). I may not use the words you’re talking about, but the concept of “sin” is woven deeply into this presentation, even more deeply than the individualistic version that’s captured in the American church. Is our sin only relative to God? Can there be other results of sin?
Also, I’m interested in what you think Jesus called “the gospel”? Often, Christians today limit it to “Jesus paid the penalty for our sins so that we can go to heaven when we die.” But that in itself is a small “part of the gospel,” as you say. It’s still true, but not the whole picture. In Mark 1.14-15, Jesus seems to be quite clear about what his gospel is. I think lots of people let Paul interpret Jesus, when I believe it should be the other way around.
On the point about people who live in the new earth and new heavens — yes, I do believe it is for the followers of Jesus. This presentation is an invitation to those who hear this presentation is to step into a hint of the new earth and heavens — the Kingdom of God — and to enjoy it fully in the time to come.
But I do find the charge of “humanism” an interesting one. Is it just because this gospel also finds a “sent together to heal” component for the world that all of a sudden it reeks of secular humanism? Or have we pushed the gospel into too individualistic a sphere, away from the troubles of this world, so that as Oliver Wendell Holmes once quipped about Christians, that they are “too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good”?
I definitely love the Bible and all the good stuff found in it. And I think Jesus has called us to so much more than “waiting for heaven.” If we look more deeply at it, especially in light of its cultural context, we’ll find that the gospel is far larger than we think.
What do you think?
P.S. Eric Peterson and the Southeast Region of InterVarsity has revised this presentation by including more biblical terms for their Bible Belt context. I think you’ll probably find this more to your liking, and I can send a copy of that to you, if you’re interested.
Abigail on April 9, 2008 at 4:13 pm
Hi James,Some of my friends who chose the Gospel track at an IVCF retreat earlier this semester showed me a diagram that I hadn’t seen before, which seems to be a simplified version of yours. I really like your presentation, but in Internet discussions I’ve found many people who share Trevor’s views. From their comments (including the common accusation of ‘tree-hugging hippy’) I’ve begun to think that many people are confused by your choice of the phrase “healing the earth” and the like, and think that on the systemic level you’re talking only about environmental issues (while my impression was that you were focused at least as much on social issues, which after all are what Jesus seemed most interested in). Anyway, just a heads up on what might be confusing terminology.
The revised version you mention sounds interesting too. (Though I can tell you right now that if it doesn’t include a clear message of final judgment based on whether you believe in Christ, it’s not going to go over well with many conservative evangelicals. “Nice, but not the Gospel.”)
James Choung on April 9, 2008 at 4:36 pm
Thanks Abigail. You’re right — the term has been confusing for some, though it seems clear that I’m focusing on more than the environment. It seems that many are reacting against what they perceive to be a “liberal” agenda, instead of hearing what it might have to say. It’s unfortunate. But for their sake, I use “healing the world” more in this second video.
Haha — they’re also calling me a “tree-hugging hippy”? Oh man… =)
Trevor Holloway on April 12, 2008 at 11:09 am
James,Thanks for the kind reply. I know it is hard to read tone in print, but I just want to make sure that you know that I am not seeking to be a jerky blogger type, but rather want to engage in sincere discussion as a brother.
That being said, you are absolutely right about many things especially the over emphasis of American Christianity on the individual nature of the gospel. The NT seems to have a fine tension of the individual nature and group nature of the gospel and its affects on our lives. As to your point about Mark 1: 14-15 I would agree that this is a key text and in fact Jesus says, “repend and believe in the gospel.” I do find it interesting that in your presentation(s) you seem to shy away from the very word that Jesus uses, repent. So it seems that when we look at it in the rest of the flow of Mark’s narrative that this gospel that Jesus is calling us to believe in is laid shown to us by Mark through the driving point of his account - the suffering, crucifiction, and resurrection of Jesus on behalf of those who would repend and believe so that their sins would be forgiven.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to overlook Jesus’ way of life or teaching becuause as he said, in him the Kingdom is at near. Yes, Jesus through Jesus the Kingdom of God entered into our world, although it has not been fully realized yet and will not be until he returns. And I absolutely agree with you that as believers we are sent TOGETHER to bring restoration to people first to God and then to eachother.
Your presentation comes off as humanistic in the sense that you say that we can’t heal the planet by ourselves but we need Jesus’ resources. It is not that we need Jesus’ resources, rather we need Jesus himself working through us and that can only happen when we repent and believe in his perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection for our sins. I guess it is at that point that your presentation, in my opinion, lacks because you do well to focus on the other restorative aspects of the gospel but the central aspect of the gospel is just not very clear.
Another point I was encourage by in your response to me was the point you made about not just waiting for heaven. I believe that true believers are active and their fruit is the evidence of their salvation as Jesus said. Unfortunately, too many evangelicals (in particular) today are depending a prayer they prayed as evidence of their salvation rather than looking at life transformation. And as for contextualizing the gospel, I agree that this is vital to communicating to the people around us. The one thing I would be careful of though is letting culture dictate our message. Culture is man-made and often works against God’s Word so we must seek to redeem the positive aspects of culture in order to point people to Christ. However, at the same time, the Bible transends culture so we should be very wary of presenting the gospel in a way that avoids using the very words that God chose to use himself, such as sin. Should we explain sin and these words in a way that people can understand? Absolutely!
So, in sum, I appreciate your heart for the gospel and I just wanted to respectfully point out where your presentation could be a little clearer because those points matter.
James Choung on April 12, 2008 at 5:58 pm
I appreciate your gracious spirit! It’s clear that you’ve been shaped by Jesus not only in mind, but also in heart. And it’s refreshing to interact with you!
As for “repent and believe,” it’s actually woven into the presentation, particularly the second video. All of this is worked out in the book. “Repent,” in the Greek is metanoia, or literally, “change of mind.” It’s wasn’t such a religious term back with Greek speakers; it speaks of a changing of allegiances. Josephus, when he was trying to convince a rebel Jewish faction to lay down their arms and to rejoin the Jewish nobles, asked them to “repent and believe.”
“Believe” is also bigger than how we use it. It’s pistis in the Greek, and means, “to put your trust in.” It’s not so much about believing a truth statement, like “1+1=2″ or “the sun is hot,” but it’s much more relational. It’s about banking your life on it.
So I use different language to speak of “repent and believe” to recapture its original context: change your allegiance and bank your life on this good news. “Trust him and let him be the leader” is how I put it in this video.
Ah — and about Jesus’ resources. I think it would be more accurate to say it’s “humanistic” if we think we can change the world on our own. But we’ll need Jesus’ resources, which includes all that you talk about. And more. It’s also talking about our need for the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s call in our lives. My language is a riff on Dallas Willard’s language of “Kingdom resources.” And the death and resurrection of Christ is a crucial piece of this. (Check out my post, “Loving Good Friday” to get a sense of what I”m talking about.)
And I fully agree that the gospel message and its truth transcends culture. Absolutely. But the language we use to describe it is often bound by culture. Language is always interwoven with culture. And the gospel-truth rose up out of Jewish culture and Hebrew language, and then was invaded with Greek philosophy and its language.
The word “sin” in our culture needs to be expanded, even though it’s a true concept. People think about breaking the Ten Commandments or breaking the law — which is also all true. But sin is so much deeper than that. It infects our being and makes us act in ways we wish we didn’t. It’s a life-inclination — far more than just breaking a rule or two.
So actually, my use of some words and not others is not to avoid the topics, but to communicate these biblical ideas more clearly to an audience that may misunderstand these words at face value. My heart wasn’t just to connect with this culture, but also to recapture what was originally in the Bible, in its original culture and context, and then share that today.
I love that you want to see life transformation and not merely a “prayer prayed.” And that’s what I hope this gospel presentation will mark out clearly from the beginning: that the Christian life is meant to be communal, transformational and missional.
P.S. I posted the revision of the Big Story that uses more biblical language. It was made for InterVarsity chapters that are in the Bible Belt. I’d love to know what you think.
Rick L in TX on April 22, 2008 at 8:04 pm
In reading the comments again I just want to comment that I really appreciate the 4th step of being sent together to heal. I think this does a great job not only of avoiding the me-ism that can easily infect gospel presentations (making it seem a smaller message that is only about making sure I go to Heaven) - but it also captures and insppires the imagination of a generation that is looking around at a messed up world and asking “What can I do to fix this?”
I also appreciate that it ends up not as a declarative sermon but with a question, so that it becomes a component of a 2 way conversation.
I deeply appreciate what you’ve offered us here.
Trevor Holloway on April 23, 2008 at 1:17 pm
James,Thanks for the candid and heartfelt interaction. I really do appreciate some of the aspects of your presentation because we have so often failed to highlight the social component of the gospel as well as the together component. However, I think we continue to have a few basic differences in our understanding of the essentials in a gospel presentation. If you are ever in the KC area speaking I will be sure to come out to meet you. Peace in Christ.
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 1:18 PM
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Notice the difference? Understanding and presenting the gospel clearly and correctly is crucial for salvation. What do you think? Is the difference large enough to fuss over?
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 10:05 AM
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
To help clarify the difference and the danger that emergent theology presents to the gospel. Notice the lack of mention of sin, eternal punishment, repentence, grace, and justification. I am interested to hear what you all think of this presentation - the good (and there is some) the agreeable, and the disagreeable. What is it missing? What is the affect of this message to an unbeliever. Would you say they would truly know the way to eternal life with Christ?
Also, just so you do not think I am giving a cheap shot to James Choung (the author who is an InterVarsity staff member in California) I have written him and sought to begin some interation with him about this presentation.
Next I will show what I consider to be a solid gospel presentation.
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 12:03 PM
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Okay, so after some feed back from my last post and questions about what the emergent church/movement is I will briefly attempt to explain it. First, I want to start by stating that what I am about to write is in no way comprehensive - if I do a good job I may scratch the surface in beginning to explain the emergent movement because it is very broad which makes it difficult to briefly explain. As a result, if someone who were emergent or had a good deal of knowledge about the emergent movement were to read this, I am sure they would (rightly so) point out many things that I have missed. Thus, my goal is not to fully explain this subject but, rather, I just want to provide everyone with a general understanding of this movement so that we can begin to see some of the helps and dangers it and perhaps at a greater degree, its leaders, present to Christianity and the world of those who don't know Christ.
First, much of the emergent movement forms its theology and practices out of reaction to the church over the few decades. Let me explain this further. Over the last few decades there has been a lot of debate about some of finer points of theology between Christians. Now, to be clear, not all debating is good and not all debating is bad. It is a mixed bag. However, many who would identify themselves as emergent have left conservative, orthodox, evangelicalism because they do not like the debating and want to seek unity. Sounds good right? You can probably resonate with that to some level. But, what is the outcome? The outcome is that these people have sought and placed unity over the gospel. In an effort to be peaceable and have harmony between them they effectively throw out doctrine because it can bring division. I'll make two points here. First, getting the gospel and God's Word right is worth fighting for. Read the NT, especially the letters from Paul, he is fighting for correct doctrine without apology for the sake of true unity - unity of those who are truly believers! Second, this quest for unity has degenerated into a denial and reaction against propositional truth in a growing number of emergents. Instead, there is a very heavy emphasis on experience and one's individual experience with God. The implication of this second point is that they minimize Jesus' work on the cross for us out of a desire to not offend people. So, instead of telling someone that they are a sinner and that they are going to hell if they do not embrace Jesus' sacrifice for them on the cross an emergent will often times boil the gospel and salvation down to following the social teachings and ways of Jesus. They will typically call people to follow the teachings and ways of Jesus to make this a better world. In a reaction to recent decades of the church neglecting social issues, they will only focus on the social component of the gospel.
The good side of this is that they have helped to point out the church's failure in the social dimension of the gospel over the last few decades and have called us to step up in this area. On the other hand, by only calling people to follow Jesus social teachings and ways to gain salvation they are misleading people in the worst way possible because the reality is that the people they are reaching are still sinners in need of a Christ's sacrifice on their behalf to escape hell. As believers our message should first be Christ crucified and that should result in a life of following and living out Jesus' teachings and example. What was the message of the NT church? "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:22-25).
Another dimension of the emergent movement is that they have done well to point out that the church over recent decades has too greatly separated itself from culture and this has hindered the church's ability to reach people. Unfortunately, the emergents have gone too far the other way and let culture dictate their philosophy and methodology. For example, many emergents will snub their noses at the many Christians who abstain from alcohol because the Bible does not teach abstention but only not to get drunk. But let me give you an example of what a group of emergents did with this liberty in order to reach people for the gospel. They bought a bar that was up for sale and continued to operate it using it as an opportunity to reach that particular neighborhood for Christ by having Christian bartenders and waitresses serving the patrons in order to build relationships with them to share the gospel (This example is from the book, The Shaping of Things to Come). Now, as someone who gets excited about evangelism initially this idea really got me excited but as I thought more about it I realized this is taking the cultural aspect of mission too far for a few reasons: 1) Jesus never told us to contribute to someone's sin in order to build a relationship with them to share the gospel. 2) Let's say they did lead someone to Christ, how are they to now explain to that person that they can no longer get drunk when in fact, the very Christians who are saying this are the same people operating and serving in an establishment of which that is the very purpose why many people go. It just does not make sense and immediately damages the credibility of the gospel. Remember Paul said, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).
Finally, another major mark of the emergent church is a reaction to leadership. Many emergents will assert that the early church was so successful in reaching the world because it did not have organized leadership so it was much more free to move and adapt. This is simply not true. In fact, Paul writes twice about qualifications of Elders and Deacons (1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1). He also tells Titus that he left him in Crete to set elders in place (Titus 1). In fact, when you read through the book of Acts it becomes clear that one of the major strengths of the early church was its strong leadership. Jesus did not leave the mission of his church up in the air; he directed the apostles to lead the mission (Acts 1:8).
Like I said before, this is a very very brief and simplistic explanation of the emergent movement and we could discuss some finer points of it and the myriads of things I left out all day. Here is the bottom line, the emergent church has done well to make some good observations of problems within the church. However, they have made a major mistake by letting their negative experiences and observations dictate their theology (they have a theology even if they do not want one; we all have theology in every aspect of our lives, unfortunately much of our theology is formed out of ignorance rather than God's Word - myself included) and methodology.
So in my next few posts I will show the dangers of this type of theology in more illustrative ways. In my very next post I will post a gospel presentation from an emergent perspective and that will be followed by one from a Biblical perspective. Then to finish this rant off I will critically review a book by one of the emergent movements very popular leaders, Rob Bell. The book I review will be Velvet Elvis.
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 8:28 AM
Thursday, March 13, 2008
The following is taken from a journal entry that I wrote on 3/11/08. It my heart was stirred by an upsetting and sad situation as I have seen some throw out solid theology for a particular methodology. I know from the title you may be thinking, "BORING", but I hope you take the time to read this and are convinced otherwise.
Theology Matters. Whether we realize it or not we have a theology in every area of our lives. Good theology drives us toward Christ-likeness in a particular area; while bad theology allows us to drift, or dive head first, more deeply into worldliness. Our theology shapes our lives. Good theology helps us to discern truth from error. It helps us to protect us when temptation comes - including the temptations to buy into errant although clever, well-packaged theologies, systems of belief, or philosophies, and/or practices.
Theology matters. It is not just for the professionals, leaders, or Bible scholars. It is for every follower of Jesus. It is life or death. The 7th grade choir teacher, the middle-aged engineer, the young career man, the stay-at-home mom, the young child - they (or I should say, we) all need good theology. When we throw it away or it loses its importance in our lives we risk our very faith. Of course, the true saint will persevere and cannot lose their salvation, but that will only be seen at the end of their life. In the mean time we have to FIGHT! We have to fight for our faith. We have to care passionately about what God's Word tells us and live it out as if our lived depend on it - because they do. Remember, "the tree is known by its fruit" (Matt. 12:33). We have to cling, white-knuckled, to the cross holding on to a pure gospel. A pure gospel that works itself out into our hearts, minds, and lives that we must fight to protect . We must protect it from attack and use it in the battle for the souls of those around us. A pure gospel that says, "No Compromise!"
Oh Lord, give us the grace, strength, endurance, patience, passion, wisdom, and discernment for the battle. Without the purifying power of the Spirit that leads us into all truth (John 16:13) we too will follow a tainted gospel, which is no gospel at all. Theology Matters.
An additional note (not from my journal entry): I truly believe that the greatest attack on theology that this generation of conservative evangelicals (people like me) will face and must defeat is the theology of the emergent movement. Some of the accurate critiques of current evangelicalism that the emergents have made have led them to effectively throw out the gospel by diluting it and deconstructing it in a variety of ways. The end result is that the cross loses its true meaning and people are led astray. All of this is done for a multitude of reasons, but at the forefront are a reaction against propositional truth and the desire for inclusiveness. Unless we, the teachers and leaders of God's people, step up and teach our people solid theology and the its real life implications we will continue to lose people to this false gospel. Perhaps the biggest mistake we often make when teaching. preaching, or talking theology is that we tend to leave it at the academic level instead of doing the hard necessary work or showing how if fleshes itself out into our everyday lives. Sadly, those from the emergent movement are deceiving themselves and others and are the very people Paul warned the Ephesian elders of in Acts 20:20-30, "29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. " We must FIGHT for the faith. We must fight "for the sake of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness" (Titus 1:1).
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 11:46 AM
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
I first saw this on Justin Taylor's blog and WOW! Piper is so on. Definitely worth watching.
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 12:25 PM
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 2:41 PM
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Wow, what a game! I seriously cannot believe the Giants won and even more that Eli Manning did not choke. To be honest, I was really hoping the Patriots would win so that the '72 Dolphins would just shut up. They are the most classless team in all sports history with their celebrating when the last undefeated team loses each season. Of course, what else would you expect from the Dolphins? Any way, that play Eli made on the last drive to keep it going was simply spectacular! I know a lot of people tend to compare Eli with Rex and how the Giants are just having him manage the game like the Bears do with Rex, but there is a difference between the two - Eli actually has TALENT. And what was up with Shockey? Man that guy had a ginormous drink in front of him. Of course, it must be hard to watch your team actually be better without you than with you. The Giants have a good player in Boss, so they should trade Shockey while they can get something decent for him.
My perdictions for next season: The Bears will continue to be pathetic (thats an easy one). The Colts will win the Super Bowl. And, here is my going out on a limb: the Bills...wait for it...will go to the playoffs as a wild card.
Any predictions from anyone else?
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 9:33 AM
Monday, January 21, 2008
Wow! The last few weeks have been a whirlwind as you can probably tell by my lack of blogging. Well it has been amazing to preach through the month of January. I have really enjoyed the whole process including the prayer, study, preaching, and the lives being changed. It certainly has fanned into flame my passions and desires for teaching, leading, and church planting. Sometimes I look at all the opportunities and blessings God has given me at Harvest-Dekalb and I wonder how this happened. Why did I get this opportunity? Why do I get this experience under such great leadership and support? Elizabeth has been especially great. I have spent a lot of time working this month between preparing messages and gearing up the on-campus outreach service for the college ministry, LifeStone, and Small Groups. I feel like I could sleep for a week. Okay, time to stop boring you with these thoughts.
I will leave you with this deep question to ponder...Should the Bears shell out the dough to get Micheal Turner?
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 8:53 PM
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I came across this article through another blog. I understand that there are some Christians who are considering voting for Barak Obama because he can be an inspiring individual. However, his stance on abortion (if anyone would ever consider this abortion) absolutely grievous! Read this article, but it is sure to make you sick.
Obama's position on abortion article
Posted by Trevor Holloway at 7:38 AM