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Articles by Alvin L. Reid

Found 11 Articles by Alvin L. Reid

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Would you say Christianity, at its heart, is a movement or an institution? I asked that question recently at a national conference of church leaders. I intended for my interrogative to be rhetorical, asking the hearers not to reply aloud. Without realizing it, these wonderful spiritual leaders of churches from across the eastern United States began to mutter again and again, "institution."

Do you see Christianity in its essence as a movement to be advanced or an institution to be maintained? Institutions matter. We need not choose one or the other. Some today, in the name of finding a new emerging church, have all but abandoned anything that smacks of institutions or the traditions they uphold. But Almighty God ordained institutions: the home, the government, the church. I would submit that the form of Christianity most ascribe to in our day has overemphasized the institutional side of the faith and all but ignored Christianity as a movement.

Christianity, at its ...

Have you ever been to an Amish community? The first time I visited an Amish village it seemed as though I had stepped through a time portal into a world two centuries old. I watched people pass in a horse and buggy, observed white barns and quaint homes, and clothing that seemed to come from a Norman Rockwell painting. Notably absent were modern conveniences, from electricity to automobiles.

If you lived in the early 17th century in America, the Amish community would not stand out the way it does in our day. In fact, most communities looked a lot like contemporary Amish villages. But something has happened from then until now. A world of cities and interstate highways, computers and electronics, and transportation via cars, trucks, and airplanes look nothing like the colonial days.

"Today most Americans who know anything about the Amish culture have a measure of respect for it," observed California pastor Steve Davidson.1 Then he added, &q...

As an evangelism professor, I like to ask my students how many of them have heard a sermon on the home over the past few years. Nearly every student raises a hand — and that's good. The home is a premier subject for preachers. But when I ask a follow-up question, almost without exception no students raise a hand. The question: "How many of you have heard a message explaining either how to present the gospel to a child, or how to teach your children to witness?"

Both elements of this question are vital. As a young pastor, I taught the parents of elementary age children how to use a marked New Testament to witness to their own children. I included several do's and don'ts, particularly related to pushing children too soon without avoiding their obvious spiritual questions, as well as simple counsel on how to lead a child to Jesus Christ. Over the next year several parents had the wonderful joy of helping their own older child come to Christ!

I th...

Lessons On Evangelism From The Success Of "The Crocodile Hunter"

I have always had an interest in snakes and other reptiles. I have a python in my office, my son has a corn snake in his bedroom, and my eight-year-old daughter loves to play with her little ball python who dwells in her room. My wife has no reptiles, but she does possess a great amount of patience! I am most proud of my newest addition, a five-foot-long, black-throated monitor lizard named Goliath. We like to take him for walks on a leash — he does draw a crowd! I often quip that as an evangelism prof who likes herps (that is, reptiles), I actually teach soul winning and snake handling. Don't worry, we do not handle serpents in church!

With this in mind, you might guess my favorite television show — you got it — The Crocodile Hunter. It has been a long time since I was as excited about a television show as I am about The Crocodile Hunter, or the shorter Croc Files for kids.

Whenever I speak to young people, I ask how many of them...

Football has had an enduring affect on my life. Maybe it stems from the matching scars I have on both knees from surgical repairs brought about from my gridiron days. One thing is certain: every fall I experience a strange phenomenon. Down the street from our house is the local high school football field. About the time school begins each year, as I hear the marching band practice, and see the football players sweating in their two-a-days, I begin to twitch, and feel an adrenaline rush. I find myself looking for someone to tackle, or at least to hit with a forearm! Something about playing high school football, although in my distant past of over twenty years ago, has never left me.

Now I have fought the urge to tackle a colleague or try to convince the secretaries in my office to lead a pep rally. But I have discovered that nothing in my adult experience causes me to reflect on my teenage years more than my annual habit of football nostalgia.

Football gave me a lot. Oh,...

Student Ministry in the New Millennium

When 1999 began, who would have thought that the last year of the second millennium A.D. would be remembered as the year martyrdom came to the American church? Who could have imagined that these martyrs would not be high profile, mature leaders, but young people? When Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott at Columbine died for their Christian convictions in April, and when seven teenagers and seminary students also lost their lives because of their faith at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, in September, Christians across America began to take notice. Even the alarming occurrences of shootings in schools across the nation in the 1990s failed to prepare us for these tragedies.

Violence in schools continues to escalate. School shootings no longer shock us like they did, unless it involves a six-year-old as occurred in Michigan this past March. What will it take for the church to awaken to the need to make an impact in our society?

The violence that shocked the nation b...

I'll never forget the first time I went to England. My college choir went for a tour immediately after the spring semester. Dr. Gene Black, director of the A Cappella Choir at Samford University, gave his standard speech about being gracious in each home where we would be staying. In particular, he said to eat everything set before us, whether we liked it or not. "No big deal," I thought. Well, the baked beans with breakfast seemed a little odd, but I loved the tea and scones each day. One thing I couldn't stand, however, was the steak and kidney pie. Well, I liked the steak just fine, and I never met a pie I didn't like. The sheep kidney part was (forgive me) hard to swallow.

At the end of our tour we stayed in the same home in London we did when we arrived two weeks earlier. The father asked me how I enjoyed my time in England. "Oh, I loved it!" I exclaimed. "What was one thing you did not like?" he asked. Without thinking, I said, "Sheep kidney...

The summer of 1996 I took a vow never to serve again as pastor at a week-long youth camp. Not because I hate teenagers or camps - on the contrary, I love them. But at this particular camp, I ignored my age and physical shape (I should say lack of shape), and entered the mud volleyball tournament. My team - the counselors - beat the best youth team. I apparently talked too much trash, unfortunately, because after the game, I got creamed by about two hundred (okay, maybe six or seven) boys. When they got off me, I could hardly walk, but I was too proud to admit I was hurt. I think I said something like, "I have a rock in my shoe," to hide my pain. For the next three months, I hobbled around until I discovered I had a broken hip. Soon I was facing two realities. First, a major hip operation was in my near future (which will ruin your whole day!). Second, I faced the fact that youth camps are hazardous to my health.

Unfortunately, it seems that most churches have abandoned the opportun...

Westside Middle School in Jonesboro appeared to be a typical public school in a smallish city in Northeastern Arkansas. What happened on Tuesday, March 24, 1998, was anything but typical. USA Today's headline told the story:

Five Killed at Arkansas School: 4 Students, Teacher Die In Ambush; 2 Classmates Held

The premeditated ambush on classmates by two boys, eleven and thirteen years old, sent shockwaves across the nation. The very day this happened, my nine-year-old son, Josh, had accompanied me to Atlanta. While the two of us visited Zoo Atlanta, ate hot dogs at the Varsity, and shopped at the Underground, these young cousins pulled the school fire alarm at Westside, hid behind trees with rifles and, in camouflage gear, began shooting as people filed out of the building. Boys the age of my son's neighborhood buddies killed five and wounded fourteen others.

All because one of the boys was upset with his forme...

A friend recently recounted a sad but true story from his childhood. It took place in the late 1960s, when he was about eight years old. A hippie family came to their church one Sunday night. The husband had a scruffy beard, they were wearing beads, and they obviously stood out in the congregation. The pastor got up, looked across the auditorium, and said, "It is so nice to see everyone clean shaven and well bathed this evening." By the time my friend turned around to see the family's response, he saw only the back door swinging back and forth. They got the message, and left.

Perhaps that church should have been called the "Clean-Shaven and Well-Bathed Only Baptist Church," because the hippie family was not welcome there. The story raises a point — how does the testimony of a church compare to its name?

In the Bible a name often described the character or something unique about the person — Abraham means "Father of Nations," Amos means &q...