“Nominal Or Phenomenal?”

December 9, 2014

Poole Forge ironmaster's mansion 12/7/14
Poole Forge Ironmaster’s Mansion

“Nominal Or Phenomenal?”

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined (Isaiah 9:2). “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

While traveling out of town recently we visited a church. Before Brooksyne and I sat down in our pew we turned around to greet the man in the row behind us. After introducing myself I exchanged the common cordial greeting that can stimulate conversation, “How are you, today?” He responded, “Nominal” or so I thought.

Rather puzzled by his unusual response, I was also stunned that he so candidly self-identified as such. I have often heard the term “nominal Christian” but was surprised that anyone would actually admit to being one!

We were attending a church we knew to be Biblically faithful so I followed up, “Nominal?” He clarified, “Not nominal, phenomenal!” Well, that sure changed what I was thinking!

Who wants to be nominal? Even more so, who would admit as much to a complete stranger? After all, a “nominal” person is one who is being something or belonging to something in name only without depth, conviction, or practice. The term “nominal Christian” has been around a long time and sure isn’t a term I’d want others to use in describing my walk with God.

The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) defines a nominal Christian as “a person who has not responded in repentance and faith to Jesus. Christ as his personal Saviour and Lord” noting one “may be a practicing or non-practicing church member. He may give intellectual assent to basic Christian doctrines and claim to be a Christian. He may be faithful in attending liturgical rites and worship services, and be an active member involved in church affairs.” Nominal Christianity “is to be found wherever the church is more than one generation old.” Bluntly speaking, the typical local church will likely have some nominal Christians.

Researchers Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk suggest that “nominalism” is a major issue. They assert that “many traditionally Christian populations know nothing of a personal faith, true repentance, and a trust in the finished work of Christ for their salvation”, and estimate that 1.2 billion people are “nominal and non-practicing ‘Christians’.”

Getting back to our conversation with the man in the pew: his clarification, “I’m phenomenal” intrigued me. Upon further conversation Brooksyne and I learned that our new “friend” had a bad fall several weeks ago. He was an elderly gentleman and admitted he took on more than he should when he carried in a load of firewood. He lost his balance and fell which really hurt his back. A large band-aid covered the sizeable scrape on his bald, shiny scalp where his head landed.

After being laid up he was thrilled to be back in church and expressed as much. After all, he now had a fresh perspective and the contrast couldn’t be more stark: For nearly two weeks he laid flat on a bed, writhing in pain with every move, and stared at the four walls of his recovery room. Now he was in God’s house, visiting with God’s people, worshiping in song, hearing the public declaration of Scripture, being challenged and inspired by the Pastor’s sermon.

Another stark contrast comes to mind directly from Scripture: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2). We dwelled in deep darkness, living day after day with no hope for eternity. We once were lost but now are found, we were blind but now we see. The Son of Light came into the world to expel the deep darkness that held us captive to sin: “For He rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13).

When we contemplate the great rescue that took place in our lives and the tremendous contrast of light to darkness we must never settle for being a “nominal” Christian. Instead we will seek to be phenomenal Christians since we serve a phenomenal Saviour.

Next time you’re asked, “How are you?” consider responding “Phenomenal!” It could lead to a great witnessing opportunity.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we are among those who once walked in darkness, but You rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of Your beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. There is nothing we could seek in this life that could bring greater freedom and joy here and now, and treasures forevermore as we abide with You through all eternity. Help us never to lose sight of the great contrast You bring into our lives as we walk out of darkness and dwell in Your radiant light. You are phenomenal God whom we love with all our hearts. Amen.

Reader’s note regarding our message yesterday: “I just wanted to tell you how important I think your teaching was today. As a long time pastor, counselor, and professor, I can tell you that people are especially vulnerable to depression and even suicide this time of year. Unfortunately, I am afraid this year it may be even worse because of that young lady who was ill and took her life as a way out (or so she thought), and the way the media glamorized her and her actions. Your perspective, which is, of course, God’s perspective, is badly needed. I am praying God will get to many who need it right now.

DonateSpecial Note: We want to thank all who have financially supported our ministry this past year. We typically see a spike in giving at the end of the year for which we are most thankful. We realize there are many fine ministries and causes requesting support at this time but if the Lord would lead you we surely need and appreciate the financial support from our readers and listeners. Our ministry (and support) is comprised of half our time to Daily Encouragement and the other half to our chaplaincy ministry to companies (of course, this varies week by week). Each of these ministries essentially is the same as a part-time job for each of us (20+ hours weekly). Our goal for many years is that each phase would provide half of our ministry expenses and income. If you would like to make a donation see here for more information or donate directly online here. Thank you!

Sunday we visited a special open house at the Historic Poole Forge in Eastern Lancaster County. The old Ironmaster’s Mansion was open for tours and each room was decorated with a Christmas theme.

Poole Forge ironmaster's mansion door 12/7/14
An old door in the Poole Forge Ironmaster’s Mansion.

Poole Forge ironmaster's mansion Christmas tree 12/7/14
Local businesses sponsored trees throughout the mansion. Some of us dream of “Brown paper packages tied up with string” resting under the tree, but this dental practice dreamed up the rare idea of hanging “Tooth Ornaments” on their tree. Look closely, dental friends, since we know there a number of you who regularly read. Somehow it was hard for me (Brooksyne) to feel warm and fuzzy when all I could think of was the pain of having a tooth extracted.

Poole Forge ironmaster's mansion Christmas tea display 12/7/14
For those who collect ceramic dolls this was a nice display of a hostess setting her table with all the finery including the delectable desserts.

Poole Forge ironmaster's mansion door 12/7/14
Do any of our readers know what this is?  (See below)

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Ain’t It Grand To Be A Christian”  Video   Blind Willie McTell  For some reason in reflecting upon the comment “phenomenal” this song came to mind. It was popular when we were young in the Jesus Movement, popularized by a singer named HoneyTree. However based upon this rendition apparently it was actually written many years before that!

Historic Poole Forge  Our unidentified photo was of lime kilns along the Conestoga River.

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