Our Augustinian moment

According to Os Guinness, we are living in an Augustinian moment.

th-13Saint Augustine of Hippo had the privilege and responsibility of living during the end of Rome’s 800 years of dominance. During his life, while Rome was sacked, he laid down a vision in books like The City of God and Confessions which became a bridge that went into and across the Dark Ages until the rise of Christendom, twelve hundred years later. That’s a long bridge, but it’s true that all the great thinkers of the Reformation trace the beginnings of their new understanding back to Augustine.

We have the same privilege and responsibility of living at the end of 500 years of Western dominance. The world that our grandfathers knew is gone. We’ve got to live with such faith in the Lord and such vision and courage that we lay down a roadway in which the next generation can go into whatever lies ahead with courage and hope.

There has to be a new way.

In the brief history of our own lifetime, thirty years of the Christian right have failed to bring the good news of the gospel to the world. We are living in an ABC world now: Anything But Christianity. This is a golden opportunity — a teachable moment — when one way fails, and people are suddenly ready to rethink what they believe. If picketing, protesting, pronouncing, and politicking failed, what will we use now? There must be a better way. There is: it’s called persuasion. It’s a different kind of power. Not the power of numbers — there is no moral majority — not the power of politics — there is no more Christian right — but the power of persuasion. Persuasion is a power, but it’s a gentle power. We have to use persuasion because we have lost our dominance. We can’t tell people what to think anymore; we can only make suggestions, but we are also working with the Holy Spirit who can work a truth into someone’s heart and understanding. The Holy Spirit is always working from the inside out.

To use terms laid out in Gregory A. Boyd’s book, The Myth of a Christian Nation, persuasion is not “power over,” it’s “power under.” Persuasion doesn’t stand over someone and tell them what to think. It finds out what are thinking already and offers suggestions as to new ways and new things to think about. It comes under and lifts up. It serves.

Persuasion listens first. It understands and cares about where a person is before trying to get them to consider anything else. And when you do present a persuasive argument, you are not trying to dominate someone. You are not trying to show yourself right and everyone else wrong. You are trying to get someone to consider something new — maybe a way they haven’t thought of before. It is respectful. Like love, persuasion “does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:5-7).

It is no longer enough to know what we believe; we need to know what they believe. You can’t persuade anyone to consider your point of view if you haven’t spent the time and effort to get to know theirs.

How would you like to build a bridge with me — a bridge of hope to this generation and the next? Who knows but that we might be laying down a bridge across another dark age?

One thing’s for sure: we’re not just playing around here. This is no small matter. We are not isolated beings free-floating in space. We are on this earth, imbedded in time and history, and what we do is significant not only to our generation, but to the next, and the next, and only God knows how many after that.

How about it? What will you do with your Augustinian moment?

th-14For more information on our Augustinian moment, listen in to an important 15-minute portion of our interview with Os Guinness which airs tonight at 6pm Pacific Daylight Time. Access it by clicking on the picture at 6pm or after On Demand.

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5 Responses to Our Augustinian moment

  1. Mark Seguin says:

    To provide an answer: “How about it? What will you do with your Augustinian moment?” I will lisen to others and ask questions about themselves to hopefully share their wants, their desires, cares and dreams. Put it simply to befriend them and to let them know i care and so does God.

  2. Jeanne says:

    Good stuff.
    What you say about persuasion resonates with me. This is how I was trained to serve as a volunteer at a pregnancy support service. We would ask our clients how they understood their options, and then give pertinent information. We would empathetically offer moral support and practical help (within our convictions), whatever they chose to do. I believe touching the hearts of the young people with love and care is helping to change their viewpoint on the value of life.
    Reading your blog entry today, makes me think that working at the pregnancy center has made me a better person. We should treat people in general this way, listening and learning about how they think and feel, before respectfully giving our input.
    On another point — I’m glad we can leave the results in the hands of the Holy Spirit! He can move hearts, and knows the whole situation and what is best.

    • jwfisch says:

      Good. A respectful way to run one of those centers. I’ve always felt we need to persuade women to keep their babies or offer them for adoption but not to turn them out or refuse to help them if they choose otherwise.

  3. bobenearSeattle says:

    Have you ever met someone who had such a presence that you felt different when you were around them? Perhaps you knew a grandparent who made you feel loved and valued. Or maybe it was a mentor who left you feeling inspired and motivated. Sometimes an encounter with a stranger with inexplicable charisma can leave us wanting to be a better person. There are some people whose presence is felt – and by being in their presence, we are profoundly impacted.
    Judaism’s oral tradition… teaches, “Greet every person with a pleasant expression.”
    We can start with a smile, a word of encouragement, or sincerely asking someone how they are. No one should leave our presence exactly the same as when they encountered us. A simple warm smile can have effects beyond our imagination.
    A rabbi in Jerusalem once spoke about a student who had abandoned the life of a secular Jew completely detached from God’s Word or any Jewish tradition. When the rabbi asked the student what made him change his ways, the student explained that he grew up in a secular Israeli neighborhood, but there was one old man who was observant and wore a yarmulke on his head. That old man always greeted him with warmth and enthusiasm. Later in life, when the student realized that he wanted a more meaningful life, he remembered that special smile and was inspired to enroll in a Jewish seminary to study the Bible.
    Today, try to greet everyone you meet with a pleasant presence. Let the light of your face shine onto each individual. You never know what impact you can make or what soul you might ignite.

    Excerpted from the daily devotional: Holy Land Moments “Have a Pleasant Presence”
    (http://www.holylandmoments.org/devotionals/have-a-pleasant-presence) 🙂

  4. Peter Leenheer says:

    About three decades ago I listened to Billy Graham preach at one of his crusades.or maybe it was four decades. It peaked my interest how so many people came to the Lord. I knew the Holy Spirit was behind it but what was the strategy. After watching the television program featuring his sermon calling people to faith, I was fully persuaded. Then I remembered that I already loved God. That man has an incredible gift of persuasion. It was beautiful to listen to him and feel your heart move gently into loving the Lord and I loved God already!

    John Maxwell teaches leadership seminars based on scripture without every using the name of God in any way. If asked at these seminars where he has done his research he always says, “You don’t want to know”. This often peaks people’s interest and makes their demand for answers more insistent. Only if they force his hand does he tell them. That moment of the true answer is extremely persuasive.

    John, this was a very astute way to spread the gospel that you reminded us of because as you say in the past…we protest to much.

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