Archive for the ‘Evangelism’ Category

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Deliberately Declaring a Dependent Gospel: Acts 17 and Evangelism…

May 9, 2013

I have written before about the urban witness in light of Acts 17 (read here) recently I was blessed to spend some time at a missions conference at Hunter Street Baptist church in Birmingham, AL.  I was there to discuss church planting and the motivation for witnessing to those around us.  Below is my exposition of the text of Acts 17:26-28.

Upper_East_Side_of_Manhattan_New_York

As I have spent the past two years processing a call to plant a church in New York City and as we now prepare to commence that work on site, there has been one text that has impacted my vision of more than any other.  With every visit to the city, nights spent there, days engaged there, the truth contained in the text has been confirmed over and over again.

When I first began to go to the city, I was overwhelmed by its size and complexity.  So many people, so little space.  It is easy to view this concentration as somehow incidental, some random function of economics and sociology.  Yet through the lens of Scripture and in light of our knowledge of God, the reality of the city’s purpose becomes clear.

In Acts 17, Paul is talking to the men of Athens at the Areopagus.  They have surrounded themselves with idols to every god known to man, but they have reserved one space empty for the ‘unknown god’ and it is in the name of this god that Paul begins to speak.  He begins at the beginning, a very good place to start; he explains that they are not unknown to this unknown God.  This God has in fact created them, and all the people of mankind.  He has determined the time and the place that they all live.  He has done this so that they might seek after Him and find Him.  For whether they realize it of not, it is in Him that we “live, move and have our being.”  This is no manmade golden God, it is the God of the universe that made man.  God now commands all men to repent.  And Paul explains the gospel of Christ’s resurrection.  Some received his words, some rejected it outright, some walked away in contemplation.

Deliberate

This is one of those key passages of scripture where God lifts the veil, if only for a moment, and exposes the unfathomable counsel of His will.  When we look at cities and we consider their existence and construction, and we dwell on the fact that for the first time in human history more people are living in urban areas than in any other time in human history; we can not deny the hand of God is at work.  God determines the time that each and every person exists and He draws the boundaries of their dwelling places.  This kind of deliberate action on His part should amaze us, and it should inform our lives and our mission.  We do not serve a random God.  He is deliberate.  This should spur us to be deliberate and intentional.  God has not called us to wander, He has called us to Go.  When Jesus charged His disciples, He did so with geographic intentionality.  They were not to randomly scatter across the globe, rather they were to go to Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, then the utter-most parts of the earth.  In Acts, we see His overwhelming orchestration in the collection of disciples in Jerusalem, and then their dispersal to almost every city in the Mediterranean.  Paul was sent, city by city, to proclaim the gospel to the souls God had providentially gathered together in cities across the Roman empire.  We have to recognize our place in this paradigm.  God has called us and placed us with the same meticulous intent, and for the same glorious purpose.

Declaring

God has brought people together and concentrated them in cities for a purpose, so that those who do not know Him, might find Him.  How does this happen?  How do these people find God?  The irony in this text is that the Athenian men, listening to Paul, were unaware of just how close God was to them at that moment.  He was there in His omnipresence to be sure, but He was also present in the Word Paul proclaimed to them.  God was as close as the spoken word is to the ear.  As Paul, indwelled by the very Spirit of God proclaimed the Word,  the Word who was with God and was God and is God was very much present.  The lost that God has gathered together find Him when we share and proclaim His Word.  He has His sheep in every city, they hear His voice and they follow Him.  This should fill us with awe and wonder.  Not only are we the vehicles of God’s divine pursuit of the lost, but we get to bring God close to those around us when we share and proclaim His Word.  What a privilege.

Dependence

Paul proclaimed a particular message to these men.  He informed them that this ‘unknown’ God is the reason these men exist.  He made all of mankind and mankind is totally dependent upon Him for their lives and for their salvation.  Their response should not be one of ignorance, but of repentance.  The call to repentance is a call to proclaim your total dependance upon God.  God alone can provide salvation from judgement; and when we repent we acknowledge that our sins are great but we recognize that our God is greater.

Response

Cities are not accidental, they are the deliberate act of a loving God.  God has a divine intention in bringing men and women into close proximity with one another, so that they might seek after Him and find Him.  As believers, we must recognize our role in His plan.  When we love those around us, when we share His Word, when we display our dependance on Him, we are in fact bringing God within reach of those in need.  The question is not whether God is present in your city; the question is do your lost neighbors, co-workers and family members see His presence in your life?  For “how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him they have not heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

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Evangelical Engagement in Evil Times…

October 4, 2012

We live in an evil era. There is no doubt about this. One cursory look across the landscape of culture and media confirms that world lies under the domain of the evil one. In fact, it could be argued that from Jesus’ very ascension into heaven Christians have been living in what Paul would describe as “the last days.” With this in mind, how do christians engage this evil culture? Every four years this question becomes even more pertinent as Christians begin to navigate the unique and glorious responsibility of voting. God has given American Christians the opportunity to have a voice in their leadership and indeed in almost every level of governance. This was an opportunity denied Christians in the times of Paul, Constantine, Charlemagne and George III. But, with dawn of the American experiment came an unprecedented chance; Christians could now guide and participate in their government, in addition to praying for it. Ever since there has been a palpable tension in the heart of the conscientious Christian about which path is better: the political road of civic involvement, or the Kingdom road of spiritual reliance. Which path leads to the most effective engagement in repsone to these evil last days.

It should not surprise us that the Bible speaks to this issue with razor sharp clarity and concision. While there are many texts which speak to both governors and the governed, few texts provide evangelicals with the kind of roadmap we find in 2 TImothy 3:1-4:5 (See below quoted in length)

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
(2 Timothy 3-4:1-5 ESV)

There is much that one can draw from this text, so much that it far exceeds the reasonable length of a blog post. However, there some key elements worth drawing out and some conclusions worth making.

Key Elements:

I. Paul does not sugarcoat the existence of Evil. The first 9 verses of chapter 3 are devoted exclusively to the topic of evil’s existence in Paul’s day, with an eye toward its acceleration in the last days to come. This provides us with valuable encouragement. We take no small measure of comfort in knowing that the “good ole days” were not really that good. Evil has always stood in opposition to God and His people, and will until Christ’s return.

II. Paul accurately describes evil in realistic and relevant terms. Paul looks out onto his world and forward to our own with explicit realism. The times Paul describes are marked by people who will be “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self control etc.” Does this sound at all familiar or reflective of our own time? We also must be conscientious enough to accurately define evil in our own time.

III. Paul stresses the primacy of the Word of God. Paul encourages Timothy (the evangelical engager) to root his hope in the all sufficient Word of God, which is “breathed out by God, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” The only way this first-century evangelical was going to be equipped to engage his fallen culture with every good work was if he continued in what he learned from the sacred writings, the Scriptures.

IV. Paul delivers the method of engagement. Finally Paul instructs our early evangelical as to the manner in which he must engage this fallen culture; “preach the Word.” Paul could have said many things here; he could have said run for local magistrate, he could have suggested that Timothy lead a sit-in at the local basilica, but he did not. Paul’s advice, or rather his command to Timothy is to “preach the Word in season and out of season.” “To reprove” (with the Word), “to rebuke” (with the Word), “to exhort” (with the Word) and to do all this with patience.

What can we conclude from the above elements? Some would say that Paul was merely instructing a pastor on how to be a pastor. That this text has little to do the the lay christian. “After all,” one might say, “1-2 TImothy are pastoral epistles.” Leaving aside the fact that such a designation as “pastoral epistle” did not exist in Paul’s day, I would argue that his instruction is for all believers. As Christians, we are called to engage the culture, to be salt and light. And I think that we have reached an era when “people no longer listen to sound teaching.” Post-modernity has robbed our generation of ability to argue philosophical positions effectively on a broad scale. Once we as a culture were robbed of the definitions of right and wrong, sound teaching became nearly impossible to define, let alone engage in. The only hope we have is in the explicit unapologetic proclamation of God’s Word.

I am not arguing for a second fundamentalist retreat into the hills of cultural isolation. On the contrary, I am arguing that we must follow Paul’s model in this passage. We must recognize evil’s existence in our culture, we must be adept enough to realistically define it, we must root ourselves in God’s sufficient Word, and then we must engage the culture through the proclamation of that Word. This must be done in our churches, our homes, in our offices, at our jobs, in our neighborhoods, and even in the public square.

Vote, yes. Campaign, if you must. Advocate for life, absolutely. But above all preach unceasingly the glory of the Kingdom that here and is to come; it is the only hope we have in theses “last days.” We must all “do the work of an evangelist.”

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You Heard it Here First: The Exclusive Need for the Proclaimed Word…

September 3, 2012

Having previously covered in the prior post some positive affirmations of Christ’s exclusive role as savior and the exclusivity of the Gospel, we shall now turn to two deficits that appear within the inclusivist argument and attempt to show how these deficits are corrected by the claims of exclusivism.

Throughout the biblical narrative are instances of the general revelation of God in creation working in concert with God’s special revelation to His people.  However salvation is seen as coming not from the recognition of God within creation, but rather from deferent faith in light of His revealed mastery of it.  An excellent example of this lies in the first three chapters of the book of Joshua.  Israel, God’s exclusively chosen race, has been delivered from the bonds of Egypt and received the special revelation of His Law, and has arrived at the banks of the Jordan.  As Israel’s spies hid within the home of Rahab the prostitute, Rahab provides an illuminating and ultimately justifying testimony concerning God and His creation. ” I know that the Lord has given you this land…we have heard how the Lord dried up the waters of the Red Sea… as soon as we heard it our hearts melted… for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:9-11)  Rahab doesn’t trust in God because he merely created the water, rather she trusts in His revelation displayed in parting the waters for His people.  An act He would perform again in Chapter 3 with the Jordan.  Her confession of this truth, and her corresponding action of hiding the spies displays that God justified her by faith. (James 2:25)  God general revelation in creation becomes special and able to save when God wields His creation in an act of revelation to His people.  The water alone saves none, but belief in He who parts the waters; it is by water and spirit that one is born again. (John 3:5)  The above speaks to effectiveness or lack thereof general revelation, if it is ineffective alone for salvation what is its purpose according to Scripture.

Scripture clearly indicates that the general revelation of God in creation was given to remove excuse from those who would claim ignorance of God absent access to the “gospel.”  A text which is indispensable to this point is Romans 1:19-23

19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Inclusivists attempt to address the issue of the “seeker” outside of the reach of the revealed gospel.  What of the person who would want salvation but can not access it because he/she has no access to the gospel, which exclusivists claim is necessary?  The exclusivist response to this query would be that the natural man rejects God in light of creation rather than seeks Him.  Having received revelation about God’s existence from creation, and rejecting it, they are without excuse before God.  Instead of acknowledging divinity’s true source they exchanged His truth for His creation and thereby inherited a shadow of the Light available to them.  Luther comments on this passage drawing attention to the excuse that some may say that, “only in our time it was possible to know God.”  One could add  ‘place’ to the listed restriction of time.  Whether located in a different time, or a different and perhaps distant place, “it has been possible to know him [God] from the beginning of the world and at all times, and it is possible now.”[1]  So it is clear from this passage that God’s general revelation in creation is meant not for salvation but to act as a witness against those who would claim that His attributes were unperceivable.

The exclusivist argument is not without objection, in conclusion we shall now briefly address two common critiques.

One.  Is it not unjust for God to condemn people merely because they have never heard the gospel of Christ?  Does this not impinge on His mercy?[2]  The answer to the first questions is as follows;  people are not condemned because they have not heard the gospel, rather people are condemned because they are guilty.  This may appear to represent circular reasoning but scripture clearly states that our guilt lies not in what we have done but in who we are as sinner.  All of us have fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Rom 3:23) and each and every one of us is guilty in need of forgiveness from the outset.  Even those who hear the gospel and reject it do so because the natural mind is limited by its sinful condition and does not comprehend spiritual things. (I Cor. 2:14)  That one receives salvation at all is a less a testimony of having heard the word and responded, and more to being a recipient of God’s grace. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Two.  Are there not examples in scripture of those who received salvation apart from the specific revelation of Christ, and so by extension is that same generic faith, held by some in the world today sufficient to provide salvation?[3]  This argument addresses the idea of “holy pagans” individuals who appear in the Bible as believers but do so without any evidence, within the text,  that they were ever exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  These include: Abel, Noah, Melchizedek, Job, Jethro, Balaam, Naaman the Ninevites and Cornelius.[4]  Scripture provides the key to understanding this mystery.  Acts 4:12 states, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  This axiom was true for the time of Melchizedek, as it was for Paul, and as it is today.  Christ too stated that no one comes to the Father but by Him. (John 14:6)  That these men are listed in scripture as being believers, saved by God, is a testimony that at sometime and at some point, they experienced the special revelation of God unto Salvation.  The revelation may have been in the form of a promise ala Abram or Noah, nonetheless they were responding to a specific promise in faith to a special revelation from Yahweh.  What they displayed was more that a generic faith in an undefined creator God.[5]

That God provides access to Himself is by far the greatest measure of grace extended to His creation.  While His attributes are clearly displayed in the universe, its order and form, beauty and character, His greatest gift is the revelation of His Son.  Those whom he foreknew He predestined to receive this gift, and by it traverse the hurdle of sin and be justified into the transcendence of glory.   Such is the nature of the exclusive revelation of the Gospel.


[1] Luther, Martin. Lectures on Romans. ed. Wilhelm Pauck. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press. 1961.) 23.

[2] Peterson, 15.

[3] Ibid. 15.

[4] Kaiser, Walter. “Holy Pagans: Reality or Myth?” in Faith Comes by Hearing ed. Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson (Downers Grove: IVP. 2008) 123.

[5] Ibid. 141.

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Worried About Witnessing? Don’t be….

August 29, 2012

A member of your church tells you that he really wants to share his faith, but is afraid to do so. How would you respond to him?

I would first say that he should be very encouraged and thankful that he has a real desire to share his faith. A real mark of a believer, someone who has been born again by the “living” and abiding word of God is and should be a desire to proclaim the excellencies of “Him who called us out of darkness and into light.”(I Pet. 2:9) Indeed it is for this reason we have been called, to be a witness to all the nations. (Matt 28:19) I would then say that I understand the fear that comes with that calling, it is a natural foe that we all must face but one that we have been empowered to defeat to the glory of God. So we would then explore some possible causes and solutions to this fear.

As to the possible sources, it is important to examine the following: What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of not knowing enough scripture? Are you afraid of potentially doing more harm than good? Are you afraid of being rejected? Any one of these is natural and can be addressed. If ignorance of scripture is your concern then what can we do to improve your knowledge of scripture, memorization, use of a tract? It is very important that we are sure of the basics of the gospel; we need not all be expert theologians, but we can all memorize some scripture. As to the fear of doing more harm than good; it is important to remember that we can not place them in any more harm than they are in. Each and every person has “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Rom 3:23) and “the wages of those sins,” apart from God’s grace, “is death.” (Rom6:23) I believe that God will accept our honest effort in good faith since none of us are perfect, but He came that all “should have life and have it abundantly.”(John 10:10) As for rejection, we must understand that even Christ faced rejection, and each and every one of us rejected him until He gave us the gift of faith and grace unto salvation. He “came unto His own and His own received Him not.”(John 1:11)

If a particular fear can be pinpointed then we hopefully can move to some proper responses to fear. First we must remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear “but of power, love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.” (I Tim 1:7-8a) If we take that verse point by point it is illustrative.

A Spirit of power. Christ Himself commanded his disciples not to far those who can do harm to the body, but “rather fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” Matt 10:28 God knows that we are imperfect and weak vessels, and yet he charges us to take his message to all those who would hear, so that they might believe. How are they to confess if they have not believed, how are they to believe if they have not heard, how are they to hear without someone preaching.(Rom 10:14) We access God’s power through, total reliance on Him through His word, prayer and the inner working of the Holy Spirit, so we must seek after these.

A spirit of love. God so loved the world he sent his son, he was willing to sacrifice part of himself to give life to all who believed. How much do we love those around us? Everyone we see who is without Christ is bound to face eternal separation from God apart from his grace. Now we can not save them, furthermore we cannot force them to believe, for it is God alone who justifies; who predestines, calls, glorifies and justifies. But we know that we abide in Him when we love one another and his love is perfected in us. (I John 4:12-13) If we claim the name of Christ then how can we not share his desire that “none should perish but that all should have life.” In Mark chapter 6, Jesus came to a crowd saw them and had compassion because “they were like sheep without a shepherd.” We too must have compassion for those who are in need of the Great Shepherd. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…we love because he first loved us.”(I John 4:18-19) If we truly believe this, then how can we not let love overcome our fear.

A spirit of self control. God has given you the grace of salvation, a sharp mind, and a spirit of self control. We must “prepare our minds for action,” be sober-minded and gird ourselves, setting our hope fully on the Glory which is to be revealed in Christ’s coming. (I Peter 1:13) Preparing our mind takes discipline, and we must equip ourselves with the tools God has given us. Foremost of these tools is the Spirit, who comforts and helps us, indeed he is our helper. Next is the word of God, which is the sword of the spirit by which souls are saved. Then we have the church, to aide us in equipping and bearing the burdens of ministry. Utilize these faithfully and you should be able to do all things “through Him who strengthens you!”(Phil 4:13) “All things” surely includes overcoming your fear to witness to those around you.

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The Living Witness: The final stage of missions…

April 4, 2012

The Living Witness

The previous sections have largely been focused the substance of the great commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 applied through the organization of Acts 1:8.  We have focused on going and making, but now we shall focus on living.  In Acts 1:8 Christ addresses His followers prior to His ascension into Heaven.  He does not give them a commission, rather He provides them with a prophecy.  He states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” This “witness” here in the text refers to testimony.  A testimony given in a historical sense about past events; and a testimony lived out before others, that these historical events have a powerful impact on life.  This is not a request on Jesus’ part, rather He is promising that this will occur when the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon His followers.  Where His power is, one cannot help but testify to its effects.

The New Testament provides us with a picture of this power lived out, through evangelism, preaching, church instruction, even martyrdom.[1]  Followers of Christ are commanded to preach to those who have not heard, in season and out of season, the Word of God.[2]  But believers are also commanded to conduct themselves in such a way as to demonstrate an active faith, one that is above reproach, a faith protected from error.[3]  Going into the nations is useless and will have short-lived results if it is not mirrored by a true witness.  Making disciples is nearly impossible if it is not done by displaying a witness what is being taught impacts more than the mind.  Living out a witness is little more than testifying through word and action that my heart has been changed by the grace of God.  He has revealed through His Son: who I should become and who I am.  These truths have affected my life, directed my worship and grounded my hope in the future.

When we are faithful to live this witness before the world, we fulfill God’s command to obey Him, love our neighbor and glorify His name among the nations.   To the extent that we are faithful in this, surely the knowledge of God may cover the earth, as the waters cover the seas, a flood of His glory through the mission of His church.  Lord, may this be done in us.

See Missions Pt 1
The Going …
The Making…

[1] The word for witnesses in Acts 1:8 is where we get our word for martyr.  A martyr is one who literally bears witness of their devotion to Christ through the willing sacrifice of their life for the sake of their testimony.

 [2]Romans 10:17-19; 2 Timothy 4:2

 [3] James 2:17-25, I Peter 2:16-17, Colossians 2:8

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Disciples in the Making: the Who, the How, and the Why…

March 30, 2012

In the last two posts we have examined the mission of the church, the going into the world, the making of disciples, and the living witness.  In this post we will go deep on Making Disciples, and examine the who, the how and the why behind Jesus command to make disciples of all the nations.

Even a cursory reading of the great commission in Matthew 28 shows that the center of the commission is not on going but rather making.  Jesus commands His disciples to make disciples.  To go into the nations, “baptizing them and teaching them all that I have commanded.”  To often though the church has missed this simple distinction and has settled for merely going and telling, while neglecting making.  The aforementioned pattern in Acts though reflects the fact that the disciples did not make this mistake.  They established a church where they were, proclaimed the gospel, saw growth outward, and established other churches throughout the known world.  This is why we will endeavor to do the same; become established, proclaim, grow, and establish other congregations.  To do this we will focus on the “who” of discipleship, the “how” of making disciples, and finally the reason “why” we should carry out this command.

Who do we Disciple

Discipleship is missions in micro.  It is the proclamation of the gospel and the instruction of believers in the ways of Christ; moreover the progress after the proclamation.  Just as the mission of the church starts close and radiates out, so too does our discipleship.  Those who call upon the name of Christ have merely begun the journey.  There is a vast difference between believing on His cross and taking up your own, and in that gap rests discipleship.  Discipleship begins in the home and for a believer should radiate out from there.  For our purposes we will focus on four categories Family, Friends, Neighbors and Nations. Discipleship is teaching and modeling; the life of Christ, the plan of God, and His character revealed in both.  This must begin at home.  Our church will focus on training men, women, husbands, wives, and parents to in turn train their households.  The nuclear family of the home and the corporate family of the church then should work together to disciple the remaining groups through missions and church planting.

The Flow of Discipleship:

(The Church)                                (Missions)

Church + Families –> Friends, Neighbors, and Nations

How we Disciple

For the church or Christian engaging in discipleship the substance of that teaching is key.  And while the whole of Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and encouragement, Jesus provides His church with a ready-made catechism in His Sermon on the Mount.  In the Sermon (found in Matthew 5 through 7), Jesus informs His followers how they are to become; who they are to be; how this should affect their lives; how it should direct their worship; and how it grounds their hope.  His teaching is both the Truth to be believed and the behavior to be followed.

The Sermon for discipleship:

Instruction                                                Focus                                  Verses

How to become…             Blessed (knowing and cherishing God)               5:1-12

Who we are…                    Salt and Light (impacting the world)                  5:13-16

Affects our lives…            Pure Heart, new boundaries                               5:17-48

Directs our worship         God is focus of Prayer, Fasting, Giving                6:1-34

Grounds our Hope            A life lived this way is built on a rock.                7:1-29

Following this pattern demonstrates that we seek to make disciples, not merely count converts.  The goal is to instruct the families of our congregation and then partner with these families to disciple the wider world through missions.    Having examine who we are to disciple and how we disciple them we now will focus on the reason behind our discipleship.

Why we Disciple

God’s people have always had a mandate.  Even in the Garden, those who bore His image were commanded to be fruitful and multiply that image and through that multiplication dominate the earth.[1]  As God’s new creation through Christ we have much the same command.  As we are being conformed into the likeness of His image through discipleship, He commands us to go and preach so that others will come to know and resemble Him.  This command may seem elemental, perhaps even passé, but its weight should be felt not ignored.  For our response to it, either in obedience or rejection, displays our attitude in the face of the risen Savior.   Like those who came to see Him after His resurrection there were only two responses: one either worshiped with hearts burning at His word, or one wavered doubting Him to His face.  We shall endeavor to mirror the former, rather than the latter, so that our worship lived out may serve as a witness to others.  In the next post we shall conclude by examining our witness for Christ which we are to have among the nations .


[1] Genesis 1:28

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The Going: The Where, When and the Why…

March 29, 2012

Part 2 of the missions proposal series.

Read Part 1 Here

There is a cycle throughout the New Testament in regards to the growth and proliferation of the gospel.  The cycle reflects a certain pattern of evangelism consisting of four repeating steps; establish, proclaim, grow, establish.  First a church is established through the gathering together to believers.[1]  We see this in the days after Christ’s ascension as the disciples and followers of Jesus gathered together, literally in a room.  The church in Jerusalem has all the marks of church of God.  Believers gathered together, the spirit moving in power, discussions and a focus on the life and works of Jesus, and finally proclamation to the community.  This leads us to the second pattern within the cycle, proclamation.  The word and the glorious good news of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to the community.[2]  As God is faithful to the proclamation of His word, growth inevitably follows in some form.  The third pattern is growth, souls added to the rolls of the kingdom through the faithful proclamation of the gospel.[3]  This growth is followed again by the further establishment of the church and the devotion to discipleship and proclamation of the gospel, followed by growth and so on.[4]  This pattern would be repeated through out the Mediterranean as the Apostles and disciples of Jesus spread out into the cities of the Roman world.  Jesus commanded that they go to Jerusalem, Judea and “remotest part of the earth,” and they went.  So to must we obey and go, first to our locale, then to our nation, then on to the world seeking to establish a presence, proclaim the gospel, grow the church and establish future planting churches.  We will now focus practically on the where of going, the when of going and the reasons behind why we go.

Where to Go

It shall be our goal to follow the example set in Acts 1:8, to start in the neighborhood and then move to the nations.  Ministry whether local, national, or international, is merely the reflection of the heart of those engaging in it.  Proximity is key.  It is no accident that Christ ties our words to our heart, as the two are so close.  So too our witness should begin with those in greatest proximity to us, as an outflow of the heart of our worship within the community.  The church should be engaged with its community on a weekly basis.  In addressing increasing engagement out into the wider world to reach the nations, I propose the following scale; tying activity and scope to church size on a yearly basis.

No. of Members            No. of Trips                    Destination

Less than 50                1                                     National

50-100                          2                                     National/Int’l

100+                              3                                   2National/1Int’l

250+                              5                                   3National/2Int’l

The scale might seem ambitious to some and perhaps underwhelming to others, and should be viewed as suggestive not compulsory.  It represents an honest effort to focus a church their mission to the nations regardless of their size.

When to Go

The frequency of missions activity within a church may vary based on past experience or prior goals.  Below is my proposal for the frequency of mission activity, with the understanding that local mission activity is ongoing.   It is also important to note that this scale is meant to start at year 1 of a church and progress to year 7; or start afresh a cycle in a church that has not been active in missions.  The goal would be to have local, national and international activity occurring by the end of year 7.

Years                    Destination

1-3                            Local (while developing national targets)[5]

3-5                            Local/National (while developing Int’l targets)

7-beyond                 Local/National/International[6]

 

Why Should We Go

The chief end of man is to glorify God, the chief end of the church is to facilitate that glory through the work of His Son and the obedient worship of His children.  God blesses his chosen people so that His glory might be known among the nations.[7]  His people make His glory known by obeying His commandments; to love Him with all their heart, soul and mind; and love their neighbor as themselves.[8]  If we call ourselves Christians, how can we not obey God in this, going where He commands we go, and loving whose He commands we love.  A church absent these features, has little claim to its title.  In addition to going we are commanded to go with a purpose, to make disciples.


[1] Acts 1:12-26

[2] Acts 2:14-36

[3] Acts 2:37-41

[4] Acts 2:42-47

[5] The purpose of this initial local focus is to train the church in discipleship, attempting to provide a sure footing to then launch out into extra-local missions.

[6] It is understood that this chart and the previous chart tied to church size would be read together, one interacting with the other.  Some churches may be in a position to expedite this schedule, while others may need more time.  The ultimate goal is a robust focus on getting the gospel to the nations.

[7] Psalm 67:1-5

 [8] Matthew 22:37-39