The Sudbury Faith: How to Make Christianity “Irresistible” Again

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When was the last time you read a book that you couldn’t let go of?

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This happened to me a few months ago. Fittingly, the title of the book was “Irresistible”. The caption read: “Claiming the Newness that Jesus Unleashed for the World”.

Author Andy Stanley is the son of the best-known Charles Stanley (now 89), who pastored a mega-church in Atlanta, Georgia for 51 years and still teaches on his popular radio show “In Touch. “. Andy is also a pastor and speaker.

The main idea of ​​his book is that the early Church was virtually irresistible to the pagan world of its day and that is why it grew so rapidly to impact and change the Roman Empire. The Church today can hardly make the same claim (at least in the West). Stanley asks why. What have we lost?

The 1st century church

Stanley asks: “How did a religious cult born under the armpit of the empire, whose leader was rejected by his own people and crucified as a budding king by Rome, survived in the face of overwhelming resistance?” ?

How is it that this same upstart religion was finally adopted by the very empire that sought to extinguish it? … Against all odds, a small group of Jesus’ followers challenged both the empire and the temple.

“Empire” represented Roman political and military power and “temple” represented Jewish religious power.

His answer is that Jesus was unique. Jesus’ movement was international and not tied to any ethnicity or region. Led by Peter, Paul, and James, they understood that Jesus’ new covenant required a clean break with the old one. The two covenants were never meant to be mixed up (as the Judaizers tried to do). There was no need for a temple since the Holy Spirit would now make the life of every believer a “living temple” (see 1 Corinthians 3:16).

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Jesus’ new ethic of love was revolutionary. He said, “As I have loved you, you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. “(John 13: 34-35)

So how did Jesus love us? Stanley writes, “Jesus put on a show of love that took everyone’s breath away. Including his… He (Jesus) put his life where his mouth was. Jesus loved us to the point of dying for us.

This new covenant commandment of love was less complicated but more demanding than the old covenant. Jesus’ early disciples were known for their sacrificial love and their belief that Jesus had risen from the dead. Many of them were willing to die for their faith (and did) because they knew Jesus was alive and his promise of eternal life was true.

Stanley sums up: “The newness that Jesus unleashed made the faith of first century believers great. Their apologies were irrefutable. Their courage, undeniable. And the results have been remarkable.

This “irresistible” faith was most vibrant during the first three centuries of our era, when it was a persecuted minority. Ironically, it began to lose its vitality when it suddenly became the accepted majority religion in the Empire.

The 21st century church

The Church in the West today is in decline with an increasing number of people described as “no” (when asked what religious worldview they follow, they answer “none”). Stanley states: “Modern mainstream Christianity is fatally flawed. ” Why?

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One of the main reasons he believes is that over the centuries believers have mixed up the old and the new covenant (or testament). Stanley claims that the major events that have tarnished Christianity throughout history (such as the Crusades, Inquisitions, Catholic-Protestant conflicts, anti-Semitism, discrimination, slavery, even the prosperity gospel) have their roots in old covenant thinking. It produced self-righteousness, legalism, hypocrisy, exclusivity and judgment. The result? A very “resistible” faith.

The path to follow

With insight, frequent humor, and transparency, Stanley points to a better, stronger, and more compelling version of the Christian faith. It shows us Jesus who introduced a new covenant that replaced the old one. The good news today is that although most people in the West are not enthusiastic about the Church, they are still drawn to Jesus.

Stanley’s advice? Modern believers need to love as early believers did: “When you don’t know what to say or do, ask what love requires of you.

We need to focus on (and apply) the New Testament and direct seekers to Jesus. Our irresistible Savior will once again make our faith irresistible to a watchful world.

Rob Weatherby is a retired pastor.

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