Today, in the Anglican calendar, is the feast day of Phillip the Evangelist, also known as Phillip the Deacon. You can read about Phillip in chapter 8 of Acts. It is widely felt that Phillip and Stephen were the first deacons of the church – the early church. That is to say, church before we loused it all up with argument, doctrine and schism. Phillip was an evangelist who according to Acts converted Simon, and started the church in Ethiopia. Phillip was quite the guy! Later on in Acts we hear that he was not just a prophet but his FOUR daughters were also preachers. This guy was awesome! [Think about it Dr. Phil McGraw is most popular and he has only one “preaching” child – you know who I mean – admit it – you watch the show….. “Jay- the boy wonder”– fruit of Dr. Phil’s loins, who is the fruit of Oprah’s loins …ANYWAY BACK TO PHILLIP, KEVIN!] This man had preaching daughters in the early church circa 65-80 AD and us Anglicans could not figure it out till 1976.We have been called God’s frozen Chosen!
I have been reading a book with a couple of friends in a mini study group (we communicate via the internet) entitled “A Generous Orthodoxy.” This book is really very, very, good and it challenges in many ways the conventional ideas of many narrow-minded “Christians.” So why bring this book up now? Well when I was reading earlier today about Phillip being an Evangelist I was immediately thrown back into my book for the definition that Brian McLaren has for an evangelist. This word has provided problems for me in the past because some of the Evangelists that I have come across have not been the nicest people. McLaren points out that the word evangelist has been hijacked by the “conservative right” and is not a fair representation of who he is. He is NOT however prepared to abandon the word evangelical and instead he chooses to use the word with a small e instead of a big E evangelical. He believes that we are all still called to embrace the early church’s idea of being evangelical – here is what he says;
“When I say that I cherish an evangelical identity, I mean something beyond a belief system or doctrinal array or even a practice. I mean an attitude – an attitude toward God and our neighbour and our mission that is passionate. When evangelicals (at their best) sing, they sing. When evangelicals pray, they pray. When evangelicals preach, they preach. When evangelicals decide something is worth doing, they do it. They don’t tend to establish committees to study the feasibility of doing it. They don’t ask permission from the bureaucracy to do it. They don’t get a degree that qualifies them to do it. They just do it – and with passion.” (Page 130)
How about that? PASSIONATE – about God, about neighbor, about love! I am certain that Phillip did not need a committee to begin changing hears in Samaria or Ethiopia. I am certain that he did not seek too much permission from some bureaucratic committee to move forward with preaching passionately, loving passionately and passionately being present where a presence was needed. I want to be defined by McLaren’s definition of small e – evangelical. I want to harness the passionate force of the Holy Spirit which was given me in my baptism, to go beyond the institution in which I express my Christianity, to seek and serve Jesus in my fellow human beings. I want to passionately feed the hungry and be passionately present to those who are imprisoned in so many ways. I want to be passionate enough to seek dignity for all people. I want to be passionate about justice. In short I want to be more passionate about loving my neighbor. Now this is not to say that I am not already passionate about these things, indeed I believe that I am – but I am also keenly aware of my own need for conversion. It is fair to say that daily we all need to be converted to being more intentional about loving God and loving neighbour. A Generous Orthodoxy is helping me with that and I think it can help all Christians with that – get the book – click here. WARNING – THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR THE WEAK – MCLAREN CHALLENGES MANY CONVENTIONS – READY TO EMBRACE CHANGE? READ IT!
This is a \’provocative\’ (meaning= thought provoking) book. An EXCELLENT book for anyone who is not personally threatened with NEW IDEAS. WoW! Really good stuff!
I am also reading this book (thanks to Kevin\’s generosity of all kinds), and I am also struck by the idea of passion in the "evangelist" chapter. Generally, passion is understood as only appropriate in very limited contexts, and is often replaced with words such as "enthusiasm" in the workplace and even in church. Of all the infamous Christian figures, one of my favourites has always been St. Francis of Assisi who, I understand, developed a deep understanding personally of passion through a specific "Passion", that of the Christ. The notion of a devotion to understanding the suffering that came about as a result of the deep connection Jesus felt to others and to God. I\’ve understood this, and I may have it wrong, to be about such an acceptance of the emotions that can be brought about through a desire to be even more deeply connected to God and others. By which I mean, only through understanding the incredible highs and lows that such devotion entails can we truly love God and our neighbours (the two great commandments by Dad is so fond of quoting). Without a willingness to engage fully on an emotional/feeling level, we cannot experience the Passion or passion in any true sense.
To me the church (I\’ll stick to the Anglicans here) is embarassed to discuss the "feeling" side of Christianity. It\’s not that there needs to be the extreme emotional reaction I have witnessed in some "Evangelical" churches, but there is rarely a real willingess to feel faith. Faith becomes a more acceptable thing when it\’s dissected, given an historical context, cross referenced and intellectualized. It could be that one reason evangelism can seem scary is that passion is scary. Perhaps this fear is mitigated against by all the doctrine, which is why we are all so fond of it. After all, how much passion do you have to display if you participate in the rituals and put a Jesus fish on the bumper of your car? That\’s enough for most people, and it should certainly be enough to satisfy anyone watching that you\’re a good person (being a little sarcastic here).
I have no doubts at all that there are balanced Christians, who are both thinkers and feelers of their faith (to borrow liberally from the psychological realm), but I haven\’t seen much of that balance in myself or others. Maybe that\’s what I\’m looking for. It\’s certainly one of the questions addressed in McLaren\’s excellent book.
And by the way, I was totally unaware that Oprah had loins. Wow. The things I learn on this blog!!