Why Should Evangelicals Observe Lent?

Why Should Evangelicals Observe Lent?

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The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and more evangelicals are starting to observe it despite historic objections to its origin and absence from the Bible. A LifeWay survey released last month states that around three-quarters of Americans don’t take part in Lent, but some Christians have highlighted an uptick in interest in this penitential season. Doug Ponder, a pastor at Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia, previously wrote in Crosswalk that he’s observed “an explosion” in evangelical observation of Lent.

“I’ve seen that surge in the church where I pastor, without any promotion from me,” Ponder wrote. “I’ve seen the same on social media, going hardly more than two minutes without bumping into a post by a friend describing what they are doing, reading, or giving up for Lent.”

Mere Orthodoxy also noticed this not so long ago, mentioning that the Lenten “devotional expression, long a hallmark of more liturgical churches, is now a growing trend among low-church evangelicals.”

“Any pastor or preacher is going to make sense of his own context and discern what the biggest challenges are to discipleship and evangelism in their own day,” said Glenn Packiam, pastor of New Life Church Downtown in Colorado Springs, Colorado, when asked about this phenomenon in an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday.

Evangelicals in America, he said, have lived several decades where they have been “relatively rootless.”

“We have not been connected to the broader tradition or even to the historic practices of our faith. And so, there’s a hunger to be rooted, to be grounded in the story, to remember that we are not making this up. This didn’t begin with us.”

And the benefits of following the Church calendar provide an intentional way to mark time around the life of Christ, he added.

CP asked Packiam to respond to the objection that since Lent is not explicitly in Scripture, not a “divine statute,” it should therefore not be practiced.

“Forty-day fast periods are there in Scripture. So, early Christians, one of the first things they did as a way of preparing new believers for baptism, was to have a 40-day fast period. And, if you think of it that way, we are using a practice that ancient Israelites used. A 40-day fast period is a way of seeking God, as a way of repenting,” he said.

“All of the themes that we are drawing out in Lent as evangelicals are rooted in Scripture. So, we’ll read Psalm 90 where it says, ‘Teach us to number our days’ and we’ll become aware of our mortality and our finiteness and we’ll thank God that we have been loved with the love that is stronger than death,” Packiam said.

He further emphasized that Lent is about giving something up in order to give out. As a Lenten offering, his church will be buying hundreds of Wildlife Storytellers — stuffed animals that come with portable audio player devices preloaded with secured Bible stories and teachings — for Syrian refugee children in camps.

Ex. Christian Post

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