Monday, March 14, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - John Armstrong

The first several installations of Blog Spotlight Monday are going to be major blog influences of mine.  John Armstrong's blog is no exception.  I first came across John at a ministry conference of his in 1997 held at the church I attended at the time.  His ministry during that period was called Reformation and Revival.  I kept in occasional contact with him for several years, and then when I discovered him online after the internet revolution gained speed, we re-connected in a much stronger way.  John and I have had similar theological journeys, and I owe much to his writing and friendship over the last six years or so.

One thing that makes John stand out to me is his view of the church.  Both of us have had a history of a very elite, narrow minded view of the church from within the walls of conservative Calvinism.  I was taught early on that Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestant movements such as Arminianism and the Charismatic movement preached false gospels, and that to be a member of those churches (i.e. believed their doctrines) meant that you did not have salvation.  John now sees a greater vision of the church, and believes - as I have come to believe - that God places his believers, and many of them, within all the various historical Christian traditions.  John works to bridge the gaps between the various traditions as an earthly reality of Jesus' prayer in John 17 that we would all be one.

John believes and teaches what is known as "missional-ecumenism."  In his own words:  "Missional-ecumenism is a way of understanding two truths that clearly go together in Scripture and should in practice. The church is first, missional in that she is God's mission in the world, and the God who calls her is an eternally relational being, and second, ecumenical in that she is to be united in Christ and together in relationality as his mission."  John is also an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America, the oldest continuous denomination in America.

John and I also share a strong love for the game of baseball.  He is a lifelong fan of the Braves (boo!) while I am a Giants faithful (yay!).  Please read his blog at John H Armstrong.


  1. "Both of us have had a history of a very elite, narrow minded view of the church from within the walls of..."
    For me as well, I have had to examine the walls that divide believers. In my perception, the bricks of the walls that divide believers are the habit patterns of institutionalism - name branding, hiring elite's to rule, power pyramids called leadership to control - pacification and spectating of non-hired believers, etc. God's design is now so severely warped that His design for unity is no longer possible - unless you throw out institutionalizing habits. From my brief review, it appears to me John thinks unity is possible with institutionalism in full play. Hebrews tells us to "throw off the things that hinder and the sin that so easily entangles". We are not told to do our best with the things that hinder or try to improve the things that hinder, or wait till our key friends are also ready to throw off.... In order to "run the race marked out for us" we must first "throw off". The Holy Spirit is powerful enough to help us do it.

  2. Tim,

    I'm not a fan of institutionalism, but I do know it's possible for a church that has that "institutional" worship service or even governmental structure to have great fellowship and one-anothers. I've been part of one. Sharing meals together, sharing lives together, children incorporated into most aspects of church (except worship service), loving one another, bearing one another's burdens, etc. So, I don't see that John is necessarily in such a no-win situation, even across traditions, and he certainly has his own ministry to others.

  3. A very small semblance, a tiny modicum of unity is able to happen in a small percentage of institutionalized churches. Just enough for us to think it's okay and that we're doing the real thing. God's design for unity goes so much broader and deeper than what is possible in a system with so much branding, positioning and posturing. Even the level of unity between an institutionalized pastor and "his people" is far from any level of mutuality and unity like in the Godhead.

    The institutionalized form of unity is so easily corrupted. It will even claim unity with those living in immorality and with idol worshipers and claim they are obeying God's call for unity.

    As time goes by, are there not more and more brands created every year to divide up the saints by mostly external nuances that surround faith?

    What kind of a success factor would you give to the evangelical church in our nation unifying across branding lines?