Archive for February, 2012


Following is a link for a full interview between Frank Viola and Scot McKnight as they discuss McKnight’s Book The King Jesus Gospel. This interview was originally on Frank Viola’s Blog Beyond Evangelical. Click this link to read the unedited interview: http://frankviola.org/2012/02/08/scotmcknight.

I highly recommend reading this interview as McKnight is touching on some of the same issues I discuss in Viral Jesus about the lordship of Jesus Christ.

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Exact Provision

Jesus said to ask and we will receive.

The response to my request for listening stories has branched out into stories of encountering God in prayer walking see Prayer Walking and divine provision. Below are three stories of divine provision. Please feel free to continue to send me stories about prayer waking encounters with God and now divine provision. For every story published I’ll send you a copy of my book Viral Jesus. For now I am suspending my listening stories series. However, I’ve enjoyed the stories that you have sent.

Thad’s Exact Provision Story

My business partners and I had not been paid for over 3 months because our biggest customer had refused to pay for the services that they had purchased from us.  We were all just squeaking it out with paying our bills.  One day we were leaving on a business trip from my home in San Antonio to Houston.  My partner, Richard, got in the vehicle with me and told me that earlier he had stopped by the ATM to get some travel cash.  As he stood there waiting for the machine to dispense the money the Lord spoke to him and told him to give $94 to my other partner, Wayne.  We thought, what an odd amount?  When Wayne arrived we took off for Houston while Richard told him what had happened at the ATM.  Wayne was perplexed, until we were passing through downtown San Antonio and his wife called him on his cell phone crying.  She had just arrived at her job, a bank, to find out that they were overdrawn in their account.  She was totally humiliated and embarrassed.  Wayne then asked her the amount of the overdraft, to which she sobbed — $94.  We took a short detour to pass by the bank where she worked to hand her the money to cover the overdraft.  We all learned a lesson that day about the Lord’s precise care for our situation.

Paul’s Provision Stories

When my wife and I were planting our ministry at Chico State in California our first year we were living on support as a campus missionaries and were nowhere near “full support.” God provided month by month. One time we were taking a group of students to a conference in Southern California and Christy checked our bank statement on the way down and we realized that we had nothing left! We didn’t have money for gas to get the students home!  Later during the conference the leader announced that they would be taking an offering for our ministry! Which is not normally something done at college conferences! He didn’t know anything of our situation (but God did!) but that offering provided enough for us to get home and get pizza for our evangelistic study the next week!

More recently we just had our first son Owen and have had an epic fall semester of many students accepting Jesus. Money got very tight during this season of blessing in our ministry and things were getting pretty discouraging financially. We got a letter from our OBGYN doctor and at first thought it was a bill we opened it up and it was a hand written note telling us he appreciates the kingdom work we do and all the money for the delivery of Owen was enclosed! (including what the insurance paid him.) God is faithful to provide! If it is God’s will it’s God’s bill!

  • Have you ever had an “exact provision” story?
  • Why do you think so many Christians don’t believe God acts like this?
  • Why do you think so many Christians don’t have stories like this?
  • Do you think it is possible to live by faith, without a salaried job and serve the Lord full time; kind of the modern day version of no purse, bag or sandals (Lk 10:4)?
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Thank you for all the interaction about listening to God. Now I have a new challenge. Please send me your stories for meeting God through the practice commonly called prayer walking. If you don’t know what prayer walking is, here is a good primer.

So, to encourage people to experiment with prayer walking, or continue prayer walking, I’d like to offer to send a copy of my book Viral Jesus to those who send me a good story of an encounter with God while prayer walking. As always, I get to be the final arbiter of which stories get posted and to whom I send books, but I’m pretty generous, so feel free to send me your stories.

Joel Zehring sent me this story about both listening and prayer walking. I believe in prayer walking. I find that God speaks to me best when I prayer walk and I know many people who have the same experience.

Joel’s Story

Here’s a story I posted on my blog a couple years ago:

I’ve been taking my son on prayer walks around our neighborhood for a few months, and a funny thing has happened. To my eyes, the neighborhood hasn’t changed much, but my prayer walking is changing.

On our most recent walk, I passed a guy working on his lawn. I said hello, threw out a quip about being productive, and kept on walking. As soon as he was out of my periphery, I got the idea that I should ask him if I could pray for him.

“Next person,” I told myself as I continued on, speaking out loud my prayers as I pushed Nathan in the stroller.

A few streets later, Nathan pointed to a little girl standing in her driveway. Her mother was taking out the trash.

“That’s a little girl, huh?” I commented, followed by a friendly “hello” to the mother. We were past the house before I remembered that I was going to ask if I could pray for her. I wondered if I was being forgetful or willfully negligent in passing up these opportunities.

Heading up our street to go back home, we saw one more person, a woman raking weeds in her front yard. I said hello and commented on her yard and her diligence. Before the conversation ended, I crossed to her side of the street and mentioned our mission for this walk.

“Our neighborhood needs it,” she said.

Then I made my pitch: “I don’t mean to push anything on you, but is there anything we could pray about for you?”

Without hesitation, our neighbor explained what was happening lately in her life, and how we might pray for her. We learned that she follows Jesus and she shared a good deal about her family. Before walking on, I prayed a quick prayer aloud for her requests, then wished her a good day.

Over all these months of praying over our streets, it’s never once struck me to stop and pray with our neighbors. I’ve prayed for husbands, wives, parents, children, and I’ve prayed that God would reveal himself to our neighbors. I just didn’t think that he wanted to reveal himself right there on the street during our prayer walk. I’ll be walking a lot more carefully on our next walk.

  • Is prayer walking a new idea to you?
  • Where is your best place or way to encounter Jesus and communicate with Him?
  • What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of prayer walking?
  • Have you ever prayer walked a place with a group of people? How was that experience?
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Lois’ Story

When Lois asked how much the answer was specific.

We were on our way to a house church conference in Dallas from El Paso. After it was over we would be spending the night with a college roommate. She had been unemployed for quite some time and is a single mom. It was a desperate situation. I asked the Lord if we should give her an offering while we were there. He said yes, so I asked how much. “$700″ He said. Interesting enough was that I hadn’t given an offering in a couple months so most of it was already set aside. I took the rest out of savings and put it in an envelope. Before we left her home we handed her the money. Amidst bubbly hugs and exclamations she says asked if she could count it and disappears into her bedroom. She came back out crying. She needed $600 in just 2 days before she would have been kicked out of her apartment. What is comical is that after we left she was trying to track us down to give us back the $100. “I miscounted!” she says. “You can have $100 back”. Laughing, I said, “No, I was planning to buy you groceries! Go get some food!” I love how the Lord meets the needs of those in the body. I know God would not have left her homeless, but I was privileged to be a part of His plan. I was blessed by being in on His blessing!

Tim’s Story

Tim's time didn't work out quite like he planned.

My 10 year old son and I grabbed a basketball and went across the street to shoot some hoops. As we approached the court we saw a black man in a wheel chair in the court with a basketball in his lap. As we drew closer I observed this man had cerebral palsy and could barely move his hands. He greeted us with a giant smile and a drooling invitation to play ball with him.

I’m a little frustrated internally since I am here to play real ball with my son. As we interacted a few statements I noticed on his key chain around his neck was written WWJD. I asked him if he knew what that meant. In his difficult to understand speech he said What Would Jesus Do. I asked him, Do you know Jesus? He beamed and answered “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I was stunned. I am now over my frustration. I realize I am experiencing a messenger so unusual, he must be sent by God.

I learn his name is Malcolm. I ask him where he goes to church. He winces and says he goes to a place in San Jose but they don’t like him. When he asks questions they seem annoyed. To myself, I know exactly what he’s talking about. I am now struggling whether to tell him about the fellowship that meets in my home across the street. I have thoughts of reaching our upscale neighborhood but think that would not work well if he were there. This is obviously a thought from my flesh. I hear God say, “Invite him to your home you fool. There may be blessings you have no idea about.” The Spirit wins the battle and I invite him to this new fellowship where questions and participation from anyone are welcome because that is what the Bible instructs God’s people to do. He says he’ll come. I tell him I’ll need to make a ramp to get him inside.

Over the next four years Malcolm joins in with our fellowship and we connect like no other relationship I have ever experienced where he teaches me and I teach him. If I were to recount all the things we did and learned together it would take a book. The biggest thing I learned was what it means to “wash one another’s feet”. It’s a lesson that cannot be taught AND learned in a sanctuary, a seminary, or Sunday school room. It can only be learned in that live situation where Jesus presents us with an unexpected action that requires great humility and long suffering, and we respond in obedience and joy. Yes, there were thousands of blessings for me and many others, including my young boys watching their father teach them by example about washing feet.

  • What did you learn from Lois’ story or from Tim’s story?
  • The voice of God is not always audible, what other forms can it take?
  • God spoke very specifically to Lois, including the amount of money she was to offer? Does God communicate with you this specifically? What would it take to increase the accuracy of our listening?
  • God asked Tim to do something that went against his first inclination. How do we know when to respond logically and when to go against our inclinations?
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Can a simple bag of groceries be part of a miracle?

Our Story

In 1985 my wife, three little daughters and I were preparing to go to the mission field. Like many missionaries, we had to raise support. We felt that God was asking us to live off of the little support we already had, which really wasn’t much beyond our rent.

One day we finally ran out of food; I mean really ran out. No oatmeal, no flour, no milk, nothing. All we had was a few things like spices and baking powder. Garlic powder and baking soda don’t make a meal. Yet we had three hungry little girls, one a baby. Nevertheless, we felt that God wanted us to trust him. So, we set the table, gathered our little girls and prayed. Just then the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, there stood a woman from our church with a bag of vegetables from her garden. As we invited her in she said, “God told me to bring these to you.” After a brief chat she said, “I’ve got to go, but before I forget, God told me to also give you this.” With that she handed us twenty dollars.

At the time we were living in College Place, WA which is a small town that has a lot of Adventists. The owner of the local store was Adventist and closed his store just before sundown on Friday, and it was Friday. I had just enough time to run to the store and buy staples for the next few days; which was just enough to see us through to our next pay check. We’ve never forgotten that experience. And, whenever we are in a tough situation financially God brings that story to mind to let us know He will always take care of us.

Was this just an amazing coincidence? Well, I’ve heard many stories like this. In fact I’ve been involved one way or the other in a few of them. But here is a similar story from Steve.

Steve’s Story

Some time ago late on a Saturday morning, I felt a strong urge to take help to a family so began to load the car with frozen meat, vegetables from the freezer, staples from the pantry and to do a shop for fresh fruit. My wife actually questioned the boxes of stuff but I felt we had to be over the top generous so filled the back of the station wagon and set off to their home.

We arrived about 5:30 as they and their five teen aged children had just finished their prayer over the evening meal. The only problem was that they had NO food and my friend, the father, had prayed a blessing in faith that God would provide. He did this, over the objection of their middle son, a boy of 15, who had mocked him with, “God does not see us and if He does, He does not care.” They had just finished the blessing when I knocked on the door and began to carry in the boxes of frozen food and groceries. You can imagine the feeling!

Well, what about you. Do you have stories of God speaking to you and Him using it to do His work? If so, sent me the story and if I post it on my blog I’ll send you a copy of my new book Viral Jesus: Recovering the Contagious Power of the Gospel.

  • Have you ever experienced a supernatural provision story like this?
  • Would you respond with faith like Steve if you felt God were asking you to be over the top generous and fill your station wagon with groceries and deliver them? What about if God asked you to place $200 on a windshield (another of my experiences)?
  • What do you think happens if we don’t respond to these promptings?
  • Do you think the timing of these stories were just wild coincidences?
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Chris from England’s Listening Story

Chris' story took place near here, Bedford, England.

A few years ago we had been planning to help with a youth camp being run by people from Bedford. I was sharing some of this with my friend Paul who has serious and chronic leg and back problems and is always in considerable pain and constantly on strong, prescribed pain treatment.

As I was talking with him he offered to help put up the tents – this was the day before the camp. I really thought that would be a bad idea and was about to say so, but I sensed strongly that I should accept his offer.

We drove out together to the campsite and Paul worked hard with remarkably little difficulty. The guy who runs these camps said to him, ‘Any chance you could stay over the weekend and help with the kids?’

Paul stayed and several extraordinary things happened. He was able to run around all weekend with the kids, not even needing his crutches; the pain was much reduced. He became (and remains) a close friend of the camp leader and has helped every year since that first time. This has led to further friendships and involvements. Several of the youngsters decided to follow Jesus, all of them enjoyed having Paul there, and many of them have stayed in touch with him and returned year by year.

None of this would have happened if the Spirit hadn’t whispered to me, ‘Take Paul with you’. Sometimes the smallest word from the Lord can result in so much! He knows what’s best, we don’t.

And now for some links on listening. No particular order here, but they’re all about aspects of listening and hearing.

Response, are you listeningSpeak to bonesLittle Paxton Hearing and Doing.  Thought Dream Yet Not Dream.    Hearing From Spirit in Coventry.

And there are more links here, scroll down to the section on ‘Hearing, revelation’.

  • Have you ever been asked by God to be a part of a divine appointment like this? Are divine appointments part of your life?
  • Have you ever had a “strong sense” you should do something? Did you recognize this as divine communication?
  • Chris noted, “hearing is only the first step, obedience is really what Father wants.”Agree or disagree?
  • How can we be obedient to God if we don’t listen?
  • Is doing what the Bible says the only part of listening? When does that stop being a relationship with God and become legalism?
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Would you pay $20 to have an experience like this?

Dave from the San Diego area shared this story on listening to the voice of God in response to my offer to send a copy of my book Viral Jesus to those who were willing to share good listening stories in Listening 202. Feel free to continue to share stories. I’ll send a copy of Viral Jesus to every story I use in my blog posts.

Dave writes:

God certainly does speak directly to us.  When he does, it is so we can minister to others……

Ten or so of us were gathering for Bible study one Sunday morning. My youngest sister in-law came in, handed me a cup of coffee, and sat down next to me. My sister in-law and husband have historically struggled financially for a variety of reasons. My wife and I periodically help them to fix a car, or similar, but have never “just given them money”.

I have learned to not question when “out of the blue” God prompts to do something. If is something in line with what God would wish for me to do scripturally and the prompting is unrelated to what I had been already thinking about, I pretty much have learned it is God and to just “go with it”.

The group of us prayed and were starting Bible study, when I was prompted to give my sister in-law $20. I put $20 on the table where my sister in-law is sitting. She does not notice at first, but then begins to cry uncontrollably and shaking visibly.  Other people in the Bible study thought she was having a “medical event”. I held her hand, knowing that she was being moved for a good reason. She could not speak for what seemed forever (maybe a minute). When she finally spoke a few words, she said “I am OK”; “It is something good!” After calming down, she shared that 5 or 10 minutes earlier as she was sitting alone in her car in the parking lot she was saying “I do not want to ask mom and dad for money, I am tired of asking for money, I just want $20 to go to Wal-Mart to buy some milk and some toiletries”.   God had heard the cry of her heart, and showed us how much he cares for us.

When God uses me, I am simultaneously overwhelmed with awe, thankfulness, and a deep sense of being blessed to have experienced His working. Hearing God’s promptings has only been part of my life for the past few years. About four years ago, I began to spend time in the Word and prayer daily.  God used our time together to not only reveal his truths, but also to show me areas of my life that I needed to change. When I finally let Him take control, He was able to clean me up. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to become a part of my life. I changed my prayers to be for others and to ask God to use me. It has been quite an adventure since then :)  have been blessed to have been prompted a number of times in different situations where it is obvious God’s hand was at work. The key is to seek the Giver, not the gifts. Worship God, honor Him with your life, ask to be used and hold on!

  • Have you ever had a supernatural experience like this?
  • Does God speak this directly to you? If he doesn’t why do you think that is?
  • Why do you think God speaks to us? Why do you think he sometimes asks us to do something?
  • What do you think would happen if Dave had chosen “not to go with it?”
  • Did you note how Dave, discerned if this was the voice of God? What did he do?
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Click here to order Letters to the House Church Movement.

Some books are practical, some are theoretical; both have their place. Rad Zdero’s book Letters to the House Church Movement is strongly practical; while reflecting a deep understanding of the paradigms under which house churches and house church networks really work (theoretical).

Rad is a house church planter and network organizer in Canada; what we in the house church movement would call an apostle. He is also an astute theologian, though he might not call himself that. As such, he has had plenty of correspondence over the years, which touches on the real nuts and bolts issues that house churches face. By sharing his real letters with us he doesn’t paint house churches in some romantic glow. This is a warts and all look at what house church practice is really like.

Here is a sampling of the kinds of issues and questions Rad deals with.

  • What are actual house church meetings really like?
  • How do house churches deal practically with problem people?
  • How do you deal with the house church radicals who have a chip on their shoulder about traditional churches?
  • How do house churches multiply and how do they deal with missions?
  • What are the real problems (not the imagined problems of those who have never experienced house church) that house churches face? How should they be dealt with?
  • What does leadership look like in house churches? What is the role of elders and apostles? What does that word “apostle” actually mean in a house church setting?
  • What is the role of women in house church?
  • How do house churches answer the common criticisms that they face? What is their biblical backing for these answers?
  • How do house churches group themselves into networks and how does that all work?
  • What is their relationship with more traditional churches?
  • What is house church spirituality like?

I could go on because Rad covers a lot of important ground just by answering real letters and emails he has received over the years. He does this graciously, openly, humbly, yet with a frankness and clarity I find refreshing. He doesn’t beat around the bush, but he is kind. I like that.

Who would profit from a book like this? First of all, any house church practitioner. Because Rad has long experience and the churches and networks he is dealing with are well organized and mature (or maturing), he has lots to say to us. Reading this book might show us some things we are missing.

However, I think this book would be good for people who are curious about house churches but have never experienced them or haven’t experienced them broadly enough to really know how they work. I would also include those who are critics of house church. My own experience with critics is that they are usually unaware of the reality and are often responding to their own imagined fears or some bad experience with an unhealthy house church practitioner (see bullet point three). It’s OK to criticize but that should come from an extensive enough knowledge that the critic isn’t just setting up a straw man and knocking it down. Rad gives the answers to the key criticisms that an experienced house church apostle of a large network would give. It’s best to get these answers from someone who actually knows what they are talking about from real experience.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, in fact I’m going to recommend it to one of the house churches I’m involved with. I think reading this book will give the Holy Spirit a chance to speak to us about what He wants us to do next.

  • Have you even experienced house church? What was that like, good or bad?
  • What questions do you have about how house churches work?
  • If you are a house church practitioner, what problems do you fact? Where do you need to grow? I’d suspect this book would be a good resource for you.
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Listening is an active process.

I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with Richard about listening to God. Here is my second installment I’m calling Listening 202. I’ve abbreviated both Richard’s comments and questions and my answer. For the whole conversation see Listening 101. Also note question #1 below where I am asking for your stories. I will send the author of any story I publish in this blog with a copy of my book Viral Jesus. I grant to myself the final decision on which stories I post. Ah, the joys of having your own blog.

Richard wrote:

…I suppose the big debate is the general (“don’t kill…”) to the specific (“go and speak to that stranger over there about Me”…). Different Christians debate how specific God is likely to get. Does he just tell us to “make disciples of all people” and expect us to figure out that we are able to enter a discipling relationship with, say, our mate Bob; or will he specifically and prophetically say “make a disciple of that guy over there”? How often does he tell us to go down Straight Street? (Acts 9:11)…

Richard

Hi Richard,

God can and does speak very directly to us. He will give us as much information as we need to obey Him. But, in my experience, listening is progressive. The more I am willing to listen and obey, and the more I actively listen, the more communication I get. I don’t think hearing the voice of God is any different today than it was at the time of the New Testament (I’m not a big fan of the doctrine of cessation, that the supernatural ceased; although I used to be steeped in it).

In my book Viral Jesus I give an example of God speaking to me very specifically when I was reaching a guy I called Amado. While I was beginning to share the gospel with Amado, God told me, “Don’t disparage other religions or you are going to lose this guy. Lead him like you are catching a horse.” You can read the rest of the story on pages 51-54. But, suffice it to say God spoke very specifically to me using a metaphor I could understand, (I grew up on a cattle ranch in Oregon). Was this audible? Not exactly, but it was very specific and I knew exactly what God was saying. And His communication ended up being spot on and very helpful in my ongoing relationship with Amado.

I think one of the key passages on listening is Acts 16:6-10 where Paul and friends are directed, step by step to Macedonia.

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:6-10)

When we speak of “listening” we are actually using a language metaphor for all types of communication. Very little of “God’s voice” and our “listening” is actually audible, but it is communication. I’ve highlighted in bold the words Luke uses to indicate God’s communication with Paul and friends. Note how specific it was. God moved them from traveling north by foot to traveling west by boat. Also note it was a bit of information at a time. He told them just enough to see if they would respond in obedience. They did, and then God gave them a little more. At the end of the process, there was great fruit…and hardship.

Listening is an ongoing process. One of the quickest ways to stop communication with God is to take over the process, in essence say, “I know what you want, and I’ve got it from here.” Another problem is when we decide how we want God to communicate with us, we want a vision, we don’t want Him to only speak to us through desires or inclinations; we want it to be very direct and unmistakable, etc. We need to understand that God’s communication with us is extremely multifaceted and often subtle. He speaks to our heart and mind (Heb 8:10). He can do that in so many ways, from ideas that pop into our head, to dreams, to feelings, to godly advice…the list goes on. The main issues are that we are intentionally looking for this communication, i.e. “listening,” and when He “speaks,” i.e. communicates in some way, we hear, make sure it is God’s voice (called discernment) and then obey. Remember this is a process, not an event; note again Paul and friends in Acts 16. The main issue is actively joining in the process with Jesus the Lord: ongoing seeking, listening, hearing, discerning and obeying.

  • Have you ever had an experience of hearing God that led to fruitful ministry? Send me your story. I’ll send a copy of my book Viral Jesus to every story I share on my blog.
  • God still speaks to us as specifically as he did to people we read about in the New Testament. Agree or Disagree? Why?
  • How would you answer Richard as to the specificity of God’s communication to us? Does He just give general principles, precepts and instructions, “make disciples of all people,” or does he tell us “make a disciple of that guy over there”?
  • What other questions do you have about God’s communication and our listening?
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Charisma Magazine's review of Viral Jesus

My recently released book Viral Jesus: Recovering the Contagious Power of the Gospel was reviewed by Eilene Ishler, in of the February 2012 edition of Charisma Magazine. I think Eilene captures some of what I’m trying to say in Viral Jesus. So to get a glimpse of how another reader perceives the book, here’s the review.

Viral Jesus

Christianity was once an explosive and viral movement that spread by word of mouth. Not even persecution could stop it; rather it helped to spread the fame of Christ. But today, the gospel is no longer spreading like wildfire throughout the Western world. Slowly, Christianity has morphed into something much different—a stable institutionalized religion that no longer grips us with the excitement and spirituality of the early years.

Ross Rohde takes a look at the excitement and passion that we’ve lost and gives direction on how we can recapture it. In Viral Jesus, he compares examples from the Bible and today’s world to explore how we can return to our roots and once again enjoy the thrill and explosive growth of early Christianity.

  • If you’ve read the book, what would you summarize as the heart of the message?
  • Does anything the reviewer says make you curious? What questions does this review bring to mind?
  • Would you agree or disagree that, “Slowly, Christianity has morphed into something much different—a stable institutionalized religion that no longer grips us with the excitement and spirituality of the early years?”
  • Do you think Western Christianity can be more “thrilling and explosive” than it is now? What would that require?
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