Archive for the ‘Evangelism’ Category

I recently had a very thought provoking class on the destiny of the unevangelized. It was our last class for Soteriology through Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. Have you ever been asked the question, “Is Jesus the only way to God?” “Is it necessary to believe in Christ to be saved”? “What about those who have never heard the Gospel of Christ? Can they make it to heaven?”  Now let me ask another question, have you really thought through the implications of your answer? The following will be an overview of what we covered in class. Is Christ necessary ontologically (what he did) and is Christ necessary epistemologically (knowledge of what he did)?

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Pastor Jim is preaching a series on “Salt & Light” at Cornerstone Worship Center (Nampa, ID) and  a week and a half ago took us into Acts 2/Joel 2 wherein we find the famous prophetic statement:

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit,
and they shall prophesy.’”

In teaching this passage, Pastor Jim referenced a phrase that he later shared was from the ministry of Jerry Cook. The phrase is “the prophetic community.” The words resonated with me; this concept that we have an identity together that is not as much about the specific things we do, but is about who we are in the eyes of God, seemed to shift around in my soul. The idea is that, whilst visions, dreams, prophecy etc. are all realities to be expected, the instances of manifestation are not the thrust of the passage.

Part of our mission as the church (which is God’s people together, and in a specific way a locally identifiable body of believers) is to proclaim and speak forth the good news of Jesus Christ, the hope of redemption in Him, and man’s need for a Savior. In a conversation with my good friend Jon Brown he stated that evangelism is the one purpose of the church that will not continue in eternity. Worshiping God, loving one another, glorifying Jesus and finding our truest satisfaction in our Maker, these things will remain. But it is appointed once to a man the opportunity to believe on Jesus. With death comes the end of decision. (more…)

Church Planter: The Man, the Message, The Mission is the latest book from the Re:Lit branch of Crossway Books. Written by Darrin Patrick, VP of the Acts 29 church planting network, it is essentially a church planting primer, or a boot camp in a book, or a field manual for those already deployed, depending on your current situation.As the subtitle suggests, the book is broken down into three parts that focus on what Patrick considers to be the key elements of planting and leading a church.

Before we even get into the main material, it is worth mentioning the introduction to the book. Here, the culturally sensitive issue of gender exclusivity in church leadership is raised and handled, in my opinion, very well. Though it would be nice if everyone agreed on all matters of Christian practice, that is not going to happen any time soon short of Jesus returning. As such, we need to handle our differences with grace. Darrin holds to a complimentarian stance, whereby the office of elder is held exclusively by biblically qualified men. He has existed both literally and intellectually on both sides of the debate and offers his position with grace and conviction – no easy task! Unlike some who hold similar positions, he does not exclude women from acts of ministry themselves, only from the office of elder. Women are free to prophecy, pray, serve, even teach, but not to lead as elder:

There is absolutely no indication in Scripture that gender plays any role in God’s sovereign distribution of spiritual gifts. (p.15)

I believe women can use any gift that God has given them in the church and that only the office of elder is reserved for men. This may seem paradoxical, but I think it is biblical. (p. 15)

The argument on teaching, briefly, is that the majority of teaching will be done by elders, therefore men, and that all elders are meant to be capable of teaching, but not all teaching must be done by elders. Elders are to oversee, shepherd and guard, so non-elders can do the same ministry actions (e.g. teach), but elders are responsible and ultimately accountable.

At the end of the day, Darrin makes a good case that, even if you disagree with his position about gender and church leadership, statistics are showing we have a problem to face about men in general and men in the church specifically.

The key points are that men are staying boys longer in both their actions and attitudes, and that older men are not mentoring these “Bans” (boy/man) to raise them into godly men quickly. As such, we have a dearth of biblically minded, gospel-orientated men and something must be done. So whether you’re in agreement with Darrin, or whether you think he’s wrong, the reality is that something must be done to not only retain, but to train men to lead effectively in the church. It’s a pretty compelling argument for reading the book regardless of doctrinal position on this point. For the sake of this review, I will be sticking with the use of ‘he’ when referring to the elder/pastor/undershepherd.

The Man Ministry is more than hard. Ministry is impossible. And unless we have a fire inside our bones compelling us, we simply will not survive. (p.30)

The first section of the book deals with the church planter himself, and the kind of person he needs to be both in terms of qualification and potential success. If balance between theology and practicality is highly favored, this first section is the most likely to please you (theology gets the main drive in The Message and The Mission gives it all some legs, though none of the book is lacking in both elements). Patrick deals with the type of man, the confirmation and testing of his calling, his character and his ability to lead/shepherd well. It is a high standard that Patrick holds to and a thoroughly Biblical one at that. For anyone considering their calling to pastoral ministry, stare long and hard in this mirror and make sure that you are really called!

The MessageHe went from the God of heaven out there to being the Lord of earth right here. God took the theory of his love for his people and wrapped it in skin and blood and gristle and bone. (p.107)

In the second section, the central message of the gospel is unpacked and its implications for p (more…)

Justin Taylor posted some good resources here by Tony Payne and Tim Chester.

This essay, by both Payne and Chester, pointed out a key difference between evangelism and social action:

Second, social involvement at its best is about harnessing the resources within a community. It is about empowering a community through their participation. The alternative is a paternalistic approach which is short-term, creating dependency in its beneficiaries. In good development, an understanding of the problem and its solutions come from within a community. In contrast, the message of the gospel is that we are powerless and cannot participate in our salvation. Both an understanding of the problem and the solution must come from outside the community. This outside message does not come from western technology, money, expertise, still less from free market capitalism. It comes from heaven. This is one reason for the emphasis in John’s Gospel that Jesus is ‘from heaven’.

The essay also came to a good conclusion:

If we see social involvement as an expression of Christian godliness, in response to the character of God, the reign of God and the grace of God—which we suggested in Part I is the best way to think about it—then the relationship between evangelism and social involvement is not so fraught or so complicated.

Jesus sends us out into the world to ‘make disciples’. With this in mind, the two key questions are:

  1. How do we make disciples? We make disciples through the prayerful proclamation of the gospel of Christ, in dependence on the Holy Spirit to make the message effective.
  2. What does it mean to be a disciple? We teach disciples to obey all that Christ has commanded, including the command to live in kindness, generosity, love and active concern for those around us.

I recently watched Karate Kid after having not seen it in many years. It was one of my favs when a kid. I even dressed up as Daniel on Halloween one year. Anyhow, Mr. Miyagi is well known to us all as he was a transformational character in Daniel’s life. Here’s a profile of each character:

Mr. Miyagi – old Japanese widow, somewhat of a hermit, Buddhist, manages an apartment building, spends his time tending to the restoration of things, and the beautifying of his bonsai trees.

Daniel – frustrated teen being raised by a single mom, trying to fit in at school after a cross-country move, bullied, angry, wants to do well just like everyone else

So Daniel’s getting his butt kicked, comes back one night and beats up his bike, leaving it for the garbage bin, and finds it full restored the next day. Mr. Miyagi has his eyes on Daniel and can see right through the mirage of his lies and sees a hurting teenager with no father to turn to. Mr. Miyagi reaches out to Daniel and the rest is history, all the sequels included.

If an old Japanese widowed hermit can radically change the course of a frustrated teen, then the Church can most certainly reach out to others that are hurting in much the same way. I am sick and tired of Churches that think our youth need someone cool and hip. They need Mr. Miyagi, minus the Buddhism and insert the Gospel. We need to do a better job of reaching out to the hurting in our community, whether it be our Church or our neighborhood. Old folks can make lemonade for the “thugs” balling it up a couple houses down. An older woodworker can invite someone in to learn a trade. And on and on and on. Being missional is being loving in a savvy and genuine way. Is it really so hard?

Daniel did NOT need some immature cool dude giving him lessons on life. He needed a mature warrior who understands the battles of life and the pains of youth. I think that there are a bunch of Mr. Miyagi’s in the Church and I am absolutely certain that there are Daniel’s everywhere around us. Let us learn the lessons of Karate Kid and be Mr. Miyagi’s.

Don Carson considers this question, ending with these reflections:

Still, we returned again and again to this pointed question: Granted that we ought to be engaged in acts of mercy, what safeguards can be set in place so as to minimize the risk that the deeds of mercy will finally swamp the proclamation of the gospel and the passionate desire to see men and women reconciled to God by faith in Christ Jesus and his atoning death and resurrection?Two stood out.

First, it is helpful to distinguish between the responsibilities of the church qua church and the responsibilities of Christians. Some writers flip back and forth between references to “Christians” and references to “church” as if there is no difference whatsoever. But many Christian thinkers, from Kuyperians to Baptists, have argued that if the church qua church is responsible for some of these substantial works of mercy, such works of mercy ought to come under the leaders of the church. It is very difficult to find any warrant for that step in the New Testament. Even before there were pastors/elders/overseers, the apostles themselves, according to Acts, recognized that they should not be diverted from the ministry of the Word and prayer, even by the inequities of food distribution among the faithful, so they saw to it that others were appointed to tackle the problem. Ministers of the gospel ought so to be teaching the Bible in all its comprehensiveness that they will be raising up believers with many different avenues of service, but they themselves must not become so embroiled in such multiplying ministries that their ministries of evangelism, Bible teaching, making disciples, instructing, baptizing, and the like, somehow get squeezed to the periphery and take on a purely formal veneer.

Second, one pastor astutely urged, “Preach hell.” Two things follow from this. (1) By adopting this priority we remind ourselves that as Christians we desire to relieve all suffering, from the temporal to the eternal. If we do not maintain such a panoramic vision, the relief of immediate suffering, as important as it is, may so command our focus that we fail to remind ourselves of Jesus’ rhetorical question, “What good will it be for you to gain the whole world yet forfeit your soul?” Read the closing lines of Revelation 14 and Revelation 20 when your vision becomes myopic. (2) As long as you are prepared to plead with men and women to be reconciled to God and to flee the coming wrath, you are preserving something that is central in the Bible, something that is intimately and irrefragably tied to the gospel itself—and those who want to shunt such themes aside and focus only on the relief of present suffering will not want to have much to do with you. Thus you will be free to preach and teach the whole counsel of God and to relieve all suffering, temporal and eternal, without being drawn into endless alliances in which people never focus on anything beyond threescore years and ten.

Well, with my new Netflix subscription in effect, I was able to take in a few documentaries (I am a big documentary fan for some odd reason). I saw “Jesus Camp“, “Hell House“, and “Lord, Save Us from Your Followers“. These 3 documentaries offered 3 very different pictures of Christian cultural engagement.

“Jesus Camp” essentially portrays Pentecostal catechesis of children; full of intercessory prayer, tongues, and Spiritual warfare…all intended to claim the world for Jesus. Kids are taught to go all out, to ramp up their opposition to “sin” in the cultural battles of our day, and to share Jesus with everyone. Hey, to be honest, there’s a lot good there, however watching the film grieved me in many ways. There is no dialectical aspect to sharing the faith and engaging culture. Everything is an all out war. Also, a little girl “felt led” to share Jesus with someone at the bowling alley in typical “hit and run” fashion and the parents affirmed it. The interviews with some of the kids, including a young girl reveals some expected immaturity, however it is more dangerous because their is a spiritualizing of their immaturity. In one scene, a girl criticizes churches that don’t yell to Jesus when they pray, going so far as to say that Jesus only likes worship from the churches that yell and get exuberant. What is sadder is that parents are reinforcing all of this. So, not only are these kids at war with culture, they are also condescending of the broader church. (more…)