Explain the Gospel of the Kingdom to Me in a Way That I Totally Get… Please

“Jesus spoke about The Gospel of the Kingdom more than any ‘other’ aspect of the gospel and so should we.”

“The gospel you’re preaching isn’t Making Disciples because you’re not preaching The Gospel of the Kingdom.”

“The gospel of salvation deals only with the salvation of your soul. The Gospel of the Kingdom deals with all things the cross affected, including not only salvation but also the reconciliation of all things—including the material world that was lost in the fall.”

Jesus did say: “And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)

Everyone is preaching the gospel of salvation which is only mentioned once in the entire bible (Ephesians 1:13), and completely glossing over The Gospel of the Kingdom which is mentioned over 50 times.

Statements like these are said to be confusing or an overcomplification of a simple message. As I think back to my days before Christ and review in my mind the way the gospel was presented to me, I have to admit that I cannot ever recall even hearing the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Have you ever heard The Gospel of the Kingdom?

Do you know what The Gospel of the Kingdom is?

If you answered ‘yes’ to both of those, then help me out please.

Assume I know nothing about Christianity, the character and nature of God, or His plan for humanity and creation. How would you briefly relay the message of The Gospel of the Kingdom to me?

Please use the comment section below.

Evangelism – Which Comes First? Law, Gospel, or Neither?

Evangelism – Rock, Paper, or Scissors?

“The Law must precede the gospel.  The Law must come first and kill the person so that the gospel can make him alive.  The Law must convict the person of his sins so he will want salvation.  It is simple.  You preach the Law first, then the gospel.  You must make people thirsty for the water of life before they will want to drink.  The Law makes them thirsty.” ~ Matt Slick

“Biblical evangelism is always, without exception, law to the proud and grace to the humble. Never will you see Jesus giving the gospel, the good news, the cross, the grace of our God, to a proud, arrogant, self-righteous person. No, no. With the law he breaks the hard heart and with the gospel he heals the broken heart.” ~ Ray Comfort

“The first duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God’s Law and show the nature of sin.” ~ Martin Luther 

“I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the Law.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

“Before I can preach love, mercy, and grace, I must preach sin, Law, and judgment.” ~ John Wesley

In the light of the above quotes, it appears that evangelism must start with the law.  I have heard and read from those with similar sentiments. While compelling, these quotes plucked from their original contexts and incorrectly applied, do several things:

1.  They can, and often do, lock evangelism into a method. 

2.  They create an “us law keepers” vs. “them law breakers” mentality.

3.  They tend to grant the would be evangelist the power to dispense law or grace based on their personal agenda or judgement of another’s prideful or humble disposition.  

4.  Their starting point is man, not God.

5.  They can lead to attempting to make disciples with the law of Moses rather than “the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21) (Galatians 6:2) and “all that Jesus commanded.”  (Matthew 28:19,20)

Further, in examining every post resurrection evangelism event in scripture, I fail to find a single instance that starts with the law or starts out pointing at one’s sin.  Let’s take a look at a few:

Acts 2:17-40 – Commonly addressed as “Peter’s First Sermon”  Peter starts with this idea, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”  – Peter starts with God and His promise. 

Acts 3:11-26 – Commonly referred to as “Peters Second Sermon.”  Again, Peter starts this way, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.”  Peter starts with God Himself.

Acts 7 – Stephen’s famous speech to the Sanhedrin.  Stephen starts in this manner, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.”  This evangelistic message, again, starts with God and His promise.

Acts 8:26-40 – Philip and the Ethiopian – The Ethiopian was reading about Jesus and Phillip started by declaring who Jesus is.  “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” 

Immediately after Paul’s conversion he began to evangelize in the synagogues by starting with “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.”  (Acts 9:20)

Finally, for now, in Acts 17, Paul’s famous encounter on the Areopagus had started earlier in the market place (Acts 17:18).  Those who heard him speaking “the good news about Jesus and the resurrection,” brought him to the hill where he continued with “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”  Again, Paul starts with God.  

In each of these cases and more, evangelistic encounters start with who God is, His Promises, and His Son Jesus.  None of these evangelistic encounters start with the Law.  

Perhaps we need to look directly to the Master himself for where one of His evangelism encounters started with the law.  The woman at the well is perhaps Jesus’ best known and most used “evangelistic” encounter.  He starts in this way; “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  Note here that God IS the one standing in front of her.  But, he doesn’t start with the law, he starts with who He is and His promise.

What about the rich young ruler?  Jesus starts off with the following; Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” Jesus starts off with who God is before going into a very tricky unwinding of the ruler’s presuppositions about salvation.  Ultimately it was not the law that convicted him, it was laying his life down and following Jesus.   (Mark 10:17-27)

Maybe Jesus with Nicodemus?  Jesus again starts of in this way; “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3) Jesus started off this conversation with God, His Kingdom, and His Promise. 

Final thought:  How were old testament saints evangelized before the law was given?  Was it by presenting the law first?  No, it was by being made aware God and His promise first.  We too, as gentiles are to embrace the same God and promise. “Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”  Abraham was evangelized first by God and His Promise. (Galatians 3:8)

Paul Washer wrote;

“Evangelism begins with the nature of God. Who is God? Can a man recognize anything about his sin if he has no standard by which to compare himself?”[1]  

The striking absence of the law being used first in evangelism is telling.  What does it tell you?  The works of the Law is already written on the hearts of people before you ever get to them. (Romans 2:15)  They know it.  What they don’t know clearly, is who God is and what His true nature is.  Why start with the law instead of the starting with the one who fulfilled it?  Are you really going to law law them first and love later? 

 

This post is designed to engage you.  And so, I’d like to ask you a few questions:

 

1.  What biblical warrant is there, if any, that says we must use the law first in evangelism?  

2.  Did Jesus use the law first in the proclamation of His own Good News? Where?

3.  Is it correct to Make Disciples using the law of Moses (The 10 Commandments), or are we to Make Disciples by teaching Christ’s law (1 Corinthians 9:21) (Galatians 6:2), and to obey all that Christ Commanded? (Matthew 28:19,20)

This is a repost from 2013.

[1] Ten Indictments against the Modern Church (Kindle Locations 341-342). Chapel Library. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

Shouldn’t We Be Terminating Life Support for the ‘Sinner’s Prayer?’

A resolution was presented at the Southern Baptist Convention a few years ago which contained the following:

WHEREAS, God desires for every person to be saved and has made salvation available for any person who hears the Gospel (John 3:16; Romans 10:14-17; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2); and

WHEREAS, A free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel is both possible and necessary in order for anyone to be born again (John 3:1-16; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 10:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13); and

WHEREAS, Prayer is God’s gracious means through which any person can communicate with Him and is everywhere in Scripture commanded and commended for every matter and every person (2 Chronicles 7:14; Matthew 7:7-11; Mark 11:17; Philippians 4:6); and
WHEREAS, Praying to God to express repentance for sins, to acknowledge Christ as Lord, and to ask for forgiveness and salvation is modeled in the Bible (Acts 2:37-38; Romans 10:9-10); and

WHEREAS, While there is no one uniform wording found in Scripture or in the churches for a “Sinner’s Prayer,” the prayer of repentance and faith, acknowledging salvation through Christ alone and expressing complete surrender to His Lordship, is the biblical means by which any person can turn from sin and self, place his faith in Christ, and find forgiveness and eternal life (Luke 18:9-14, 23:39-43); and

WHEREAS, It is biblically appropriate to help a sinner in calling on the Lord for salvation and to speak of Christ’s response to such a prayer as “entering a sinner’s heart and life” (John 14:23; Acts 2:37-40; 16:29-30; Romans 10:11-17; Ephesians 3:17); and

WHEREAS, A “Sinner’s Prayer” is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the Gospel (Matthew 6:7, 15:7-9; 28:18-20); now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in New Orleans, LA, June 19-20, 2012, commend the use of a “Sinner’s Prayer” as a biblically sound and spiritually significant component of the evangelistic task of the church; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage all Christians to enthusiastically and intentionally proclaim the Gospel to sinners everywhere, being prepared to give them the reason for the hope we have in Christ (I Peter 3:15), and being prepared to lead them to confess faith in Christ (Romans 10:9), including praying to receive Him as Savior and Lord (John 1:12).

The above resolution was written by Dr. Eric Hankins, Pastor of the
First Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi

Though also written many years ago, A.W. Tozer had this to say on the “Sinner’s Prayer:”

There are many variations, with different lengths, different wordings, different endings, etc., but the contents are usually the same. The prayer usually includes phrases like, “Dear Jesus,” “Come into my heart,” “I admit I have sinned” (at least the better ones contain this last statement – there are some who do not even like to mention sin in their “sinner’s prayer”), “Fill me with Your Spirit,” “In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Extremely harmless…nothing wrong with a prayer like that, right? Wrong! It isn’t the wording that’s important, it’s the state of the heart of the one saying it.

I believe that a true “sinner’s prayer” will gush out of anyone who is truly seeking God and is tired of being enslaved to sin. (Matthew 5:6) The very act of “leading someone in a prayer” is utterly ridiculous. You will find nothing even remotely like it in the Bible, or among the writings and biographies of those in Church history. It completely savors of crowd and peer pressure tactics, and (please forgive me) brainwashing techniques. I do not believe that Jesus wants to have his disciples “repeat after Me,” I believe He wants them to follow after Him! (Matthew 4:19, Matthew 8:22, Matthew 9:9, Matthew 16:24, Matthew 19:21; Luke 9:59, John 12:26, John 21:19,22; 1 Peter 2:21, Revelation 14:4)

 

Take a look at this short video from David Platt on “The Sinner’s Prayer:”

 

In summary, David says:

“I’m convinced that many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ.  And a lot of it has to do with what we’ve sold them as the Gospel. I.E. Prayer this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, invite Christ into your life.  Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament?

Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrase “accept Jesus into your heart,” or “invite Jesus into your life?” It’s not the Gospel we see being preached. It’s modern evangelism built on sinking sand and it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls.  It’s a very dangerous thing, to lead people to think they are Christian when they have not biblically responded to the Gospel.  If we’re not careful, we’ll take the life blood out of Christianity and put cool-aid in its place. It’s not just dangerous, it’s just damming.

 

Keith Green, famous Christian Gospel singer, co-authored some “WiseTracts,” which are still used by the The Billy Graham Association, Focus on the Family, The Salvation Army and many others.  In one of those, he said:

 “The greatest reason I believe that God can be grieved with the current use of such tools as the “altar call” and “sinner’s prayer” is because they can take away the conviction of the Holy Spirit prematurely, before the Spirit has time to work repentance leading to salvation. With an emotional splash that usually doesn’t last more than a few weeks, we believe we’re leading people into the Kingdom, when really we’re leading many to hell – by interfering with what the Spirit of God is trying to do in a person’s life. Do you hear? Do you understand that this constitutes “spiritual abortion”? Can’t you see the eternal consequences of jumping the gun, trying to bring to birth a baby that isn’t ready?”

 

Finally, Matt Chandler had this to say regarding the sinner’s prayer:

“We’ve taken Christianity and boiled it down to witchcraft.   We give them this little card and say “pray this sinner’s prayer and you’re in.  And so the people quote that thing, it’s like a mantra, put on the cloak, bring in the lamb, and quote after me…”

 

The most common objection I (Miguel) hear in support of using the sinner’s prayer is that we need to give people an opportunity to respond to the Gospel.  To which I respond:

“It’s not our job to give people an opportunity to respond to the Gospel, it’s our job to give people the Gospel.   It’s not our job to make them repeat after us in a prayer of salvation, it’s our job to proclaim the way of salvation.  It’s not our job to get others to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” it’s our job to make disciples that live a life of confessing the mystery of godliness; That “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, and taken up into glory.”

This a a repost from 2012…

Also a recent survey of people who have at one time prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’ suggests that 85% of them have walked away from the faith permanently, in their own estimation.

 

Is it really time to breathe life back into this unbiblical and potentially dangerous

practice, or should we just let it die with dignity?

 

 

 

 

7 Debilitating Lies Of The ‘Covering Doctrine.’

What is the “Covering Doctrine?”  To put it simply, it’s the doctrine that claims all Christians must be under the authority (covering) of a church leader or mother organization to act with ‘authority,’ be protected from the attacks of the devil, or receive God’s blessings. It came from the shepherding movment of the 70’s which was really rooted in the cultural revolutionof the 60’s, and utterly failed a short time afterwards.

The face of the shepherding movement, along with it’s overblown ‘covering doctrine’ was Bob Mumford. Although in 1989 he said:

Accountability, personal training under the guidance of another, and effective pastoral care are needed biblical concepts. True spiritual maturity will require that they be preserved. These biblical realities must also carry the limits indicated by the New Testament. However, to my personal pain and chagrin, these particular emphases very easily lent themselves to an unhealthy submission resulting in perverse and unbiblical obedience to human leaders. Many of these abuses occurred within the sphere of my own responsibility.

It rears its head every now and then and comes from the felt idea that certain Christian movements, parachurch organizations, and even missionaries are too loose and that there’s not enough accountability, credibility, or control ‘over them.’  In the past 5 years, I’ve probably heard the question, “Who’s your covering?” at least 50 times.  Other versions of the question are;

“Under what authority do you minister here?”

or

“Who do you answer to?”  

It’s as if legitimate ministry can be determined by “the right answer” to those questions.  Answering those sorts of questions in a cavalier way, for example, Jesus/God is my authority (covering),” is thought to be rebellious, of poor attitude, or having an inclination towards disobedience. If continued, it usually results in one being forced out from under that covering or “umbrella of protection” for the ‘destruction of the flesh so that the soul might be saved’ which is really code talk for trying to justify religious abuse.

It’s one of my favorite exchanges in scripture when the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders approached Jesus saying:

By what authority are you doing these things?” and they also asked,  “And who gave you authority to do this?”  Jesus replied,

“I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”  

They responded, “We don’t know,” because either way their answer would have obliterated their ill conceived covering doctrine, (Mark 11:27-33)  It was one of the most disassembling questions, doctrinally speaking, of Jesus’ ministry.  It was also one of the wisest of all possible answers He could have given to those challenging Him.

Given mankind’s propensity to form hierarchical systems and structures which are diametrically opposed to Jesus’ teachings in Luke 22:25-26, Matthew 20:25 and Mark 10:42, we have purposed to expose these 7 lies of the doctrine;

      • Covering encourages accountability.
      • Covering procures legitimacy.
      • Covering provides safety.
      • Covering encourages fidelity
      • Covering transfers authority
      • Covering ordains ministry
      • Covering leads to prosperity

These are just some of the lies that have been birthed from the fundamentally flawed principles within the movement.  Sin is redefined as disobedience to God’s ‘delegated’ authorities.  Grace is filtered through fickle feelings of generosity in others (those who cover), and is often mitigated without objective reasoning.  Obedience to the Lord requires obedience to God’s delegated authorities and across all realms such as employers, church leaders, and civil authorities. Bucking any leadership in any way ‘puts you outside of the covering.’

Further, rebellion against God’s delegated authority is rebellion against God Himself.  Rebellion to authority opens one up to the demonic realm results in being deceived.  People should live by the principle of obedience rather than by discernment and objective reasoning.  People should always obey authority [usually the pastor] unless they are clearly instructed to violate scripture [but he is the final interpreter of scripture, so…]  ‘Spiritual authority and blessing flows to those who suffer under authority.’  God does not judge people on the fruit of their life but on how faithfully they followed authority.  And, those outside the local church and the covering of its leaders are at serious risk of spiritual attack.  While these principles may contain nuggets or even smaller bits of truth here and there, there are none the less widely misinterpreted and misapplied.*

In addition to the 7 lies listed above, I think these are 7 possible negative fruit:

      1. Covering doctrine distorts the gospel
      2. Covering doctrine is disobedience 
      3. Covering doctrine is manipulative, fear-driven, and abusive
      4. Covering doctrine reinforces and widens the clergy/laity divide.
      5. Covering doctrine usurps Jesus’ authority.
      6. Covering doctrine is idolatry.
      7. Covering doctrine creates ungodly dependency.

Those that insist on the covering doctrine as a valid and biblical teaching, can be equated with modern-day shamans, charlatans, and shysters.  The doctrine itself is one of the key catalyzers of the destructive prosperity gospel and ultimately kills ministry and mission. In part II of this series, we’ll talk about 7 countermeasures to the doctrine of coverings, but I’d like to ask you a few questions:

1.  What truths might there be in the covering doctrine?  Point out a few?

2.  How would you answer the question, “Who’s your covering?”

3.  What lies, or results have you seen come out of those who teach the covering doctrine? 

 

*While primarily motivated by our day to day dealings with the doctrine of “coverings” in our context, much of this post has been inspired by materials found here.

 

When ‘Waiting on God’ Just Might be Apostasy – A Missionary’s Perspective

The words

“Apostle,” “Apostasy,” and “Resurrection,”

could change the way you look at the Mission of God forever! 

 Here’s why; 

 
Apostle (Apo-Stello) There are over 80 occurrences of the Greek word ‘apostolos’ (apostle) in the NT, mostly in the writings of Luke and Paul. The word is a joining of two ideas; the common prefix ‘apo’ (out from) and the verb ‘stellō’ which means “to send.”  In NT it is applied to Jesus as the Sent One of God (Hebrews 3:1), to those sent by God to preach to Israel (Luke 11:49), and to those sent by churches (2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians. 2:25)
 
Apostellō seems frequently to mean ‘to send with a particular purpose,’ the force of apostolos is probably ‘one commissioned,’ and implied, commissioned by Christ.
 
All believers comprise the Apostolate because all believers are sent.
It is reasonable, then, to say that all believers are apostolic-ally accountable for their sent-ness. (Luke 9:10) (John 17:18)  Even if we were to limit the Great Commission to a subset of believers, which I would not, we are still ALL ambassadors of the King and co-workers in the reconciliation of all things. (2 Corinthians 5:18, Colossians 1:20). The Apostle Paul discusses the ministry of reconciliation when he uses the term “ambassadors” for Christ:
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, emphasis added).
 
So the prefix “apo” or “ap” means – from, off, or away from.  Combined with “stello” – to get set, place things in order, arrange, equip to be sent, and GO!
 
More simply put, ‘Apo’ (Separated out) & ‘Stello’ (to be sent) “Separated out to be sent,” is having a Christlike sent-ness and to be separated out like Christ, and sent.  “Therefore, holy brethren, be partakers of  the heavenly calling, and “consider” (meditate, dwell on, be infused with life changing thought leading to action) Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.”  (Hebrews 3:1) 
 
Apostasy (Apo-Stasia)  We already know that ‘apo’ means ~ “to be separated out from,” but ‘Stasia’ is where we get our english word ‘stasis.’ For you Sci-fi geeks out there, you know when someone is put in stasis, usually because of a grave or life threatening injury, they are immobilized, set still, and artificially sustained until such a time as something can be done.  To be in stasis is to be sedentary or motionless.  An example of ‘stasis’ from scripture is when Peter “falls into a trance” in Acts 10:10.  The word ‘trance,’ is ‘exstasis’ in the Greek and is most similar to our word ‘ecstasy.’ Of course, being held still by God and having all of our attention captivated by Him is a good thing.  But there is a fear that paralyzes one into an evil sort of ecstasy.  (Mark 16:8) 
 
We often equate apostasy with teaching false doctrine or rejecting biblical truths.  That’s part of it, but settling for that definition undercuts the seriousness of it’s more complete meaning.  If we take a second look at the word as ‘apo’ and ‘stasis’ together, then it could very well mean being separated out for the purpose of being put in stasis or immobilized.  In other words, rejecting sent-ness and embracing a sedentary state is apostasy. We can separate ourselves out by indecisiveness or ‘waiting on God’ and being motionless or paralyzed in the waiting. There are times, to be sure, when waiting on the lord, or ‘being still’ (Psalm 46:10) is appropriate and good, but saying “I am waiting on God to reveal his will” may be just a spiritualized excuse for procrastination or simply justifying your lack of activity because you just son’t want to do whatever it is that the Lord is asking of you.   Another way of saying apostate is “being mission-less.”
 
“Some will fall away from the faith, “inappropriately focusing attention on” deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, they will be “seared” (encased) (put in stasis) in their own conscience, they will “forbid” things and “advocate abstaining” from things which God has created to be gratefully “shared in community” by those who believe and know the truth.  They will “reject” the things that God has created for His purposes and sanctified to be received and “exercised” with gratitude.” (1 Timothy 4:1-4) Paraphrase mine…
 
Apostasy then, is sort of a self disfellowship that leads to being mission-less and motionless, an attachment to detachment, or an unsanctified stationary posture.
Apostasy = mission paralysis. Apostasy = un-sent-ness.
 Forgive me for being too geeky or should I say Greeky, but these thoughts were inspired by a conversation I had with my friend Tim Catchim.  It caused me to lose a lot of sleep for which I blame him and am grateful for.  Thank you for reading up to this point.  You can subscribe to this blog for similar posts and mission oriented discussions here.  But, here comes the “punch line…” 
 
Resurrection (Ana-Stasis)  The Greek prefix ‘ana’ means – up, back, again, upside down, or back again.  We already know what stasis means, but I’ll add that it implies ‘a sinful and willful motionless or passivity.’  So putting the greek root words together for “resurrection” (Ana-Stasis), it would mean rising up, inverting, returning, or coming back to a state of movement in life, ekklesia (church), community, and mission against stasis.  It is the opposite direction of apostasy.  It is the counter-measure to apostasy, and the solution to a sedentary, silent, and sinful stillness.  It is the appropriating of and the identification with Christ’s resurrection and ours.
 
You have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God…  Whatever your mission is in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3)
 
Rejecting mission, is the path to apostasy. Resurrection, Christ’s & ours, is the solution.
 
My fellow ambassador, live in a posture of resurrected, apostolic, and communal sent-ness and you will guard yourselves well from apostasy. 
 Therefore, holy brethren, be partakers of the heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession… 
*This article has been revised and updated from early 2013.

The Ethos of ‘Gathering Together,’ A Hebrews 10:25 Contemplation

In a bit of self-reflection concerning 2016, I took an account of how much ‘gathering’ I’ve done with other believers. I can remember at least a half-dozen times, when ‘humble exhorters’ verbally expressed; based purely on speculation, that I just might be developing a custom or habit of forsaking/neglecting the gathering of myself with the saints.

Although, and in many situations, the kind of gathering that they’re talking about is not what I would consider gathering.

The author of Hebrews says; “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

It is interesting that the Greek uses the word ‘episunagógé’ for ‘gathering’ or ‘meeting together.’ Literally ‘synagogue-ing,’ It would suggest that our time together should reflect what took place in the early synagogues.  I’ll leave that to you, but I’m still not sure that temple gatherings or synagogue gatherings are the best models for the Church today.

More importantly, the reason for gathering is to “think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Gathering for the sake of gathering is just not supported by any biblical text. We don’t gather for theological reasons, but for teleological ones. We gather towards a purpose.

I saw one of my twitter friends today make this tweet: “We don’t go to church. We are the church. The church goes to worship.”

To which I would have made this slight change;

“We don’t go to church. We are the church. The church worships as it goes.”

Ever so slightly nuanced, it makes all the difference in the world to me. I find gathering without purpose distasteful. I consider mission-less churches enemies. And yes, I will love my enemies, but it doesn’t mean that I have to gather with them if all they’re going to do is foment momentum for the next gathering.

When the author of Hebrews says not to forsake the gathering ‘as is custom’ (ethos) with some, it makes me think about what kind of ethos I’d like to see. ‘Ethos’ technically – a custom or behavior based on tradition (a habit) fixed by the religious social life of a group of people, cannot stand alone just because it’s a tradition that has been fixed by repetition. Our gatherings are to be fixed toward future purposes and not on antique assumptions.

If there’s no ‘purpose’ being manifested by the gatherings other than self-propagation, then NO THANK YOU. I’d rather gather with a people of direct purpose than with a people of misdirected purpose.

To put it more simply, If a gathering is not focused primarily toward acts of love and good works (mission), then I’m not interested. Am I being overly harsh? Maybe. Is my attitude keeping me from gathering as much as I should? Probably. But I will say this. My fewer gatherings in 2016 have been more impactful than the abundance of gatherings in years past. This overarching principle to ‘worship on the way – as you go’ has birthed new fellowships and deepened the ones already in existence.

It makes me wonder if gathering less and purposing more isn’t ‘the higher road,’ and if reshaping the ethos instead of just accepting the one in play is the better path.

Your thoughts?

Advent Apologetics Day #11 – Is It Suppose To Hurt?

Modern apologetics tends toward spending more time defending the historic Christian faith… or a perceived one… than demonstrating hope in the present or expressing a future confidence.

An advent apologetic sometimes needs to ask “Where does it hurt?”

A well reasoned logical argument, an attempt to rationalize the pain of others, or defense of the tenets of one’s faith, does little to acknowledge or alleviate the hurt or answer suffering.

 In fact, much of modern-day apologetics causes unnecessary and untimely hurt.  It’s often glossed over by the curt and insensitive philosophy “The Truth Hurts.”  If you are prone to use that phrase, then take a meditative pause before using it again.  It is unlikely that those speak life, restoration, or reconciliation.  It can be devastatingly deceptive to tell a truth at the wrong time. The truth, spoken at the wrong time or in the wrong context can become a manipulative lie.

C.S. Lewis once said;

“We accept the claims of Christ because they make sense and then abandon them when a painful or confusing situation causes us to be overcome by feelings of fear or guilt.”

Struggle in apologetics is often thought of as the frustration or inability to convince the other party of their error. Thoughts like these often lead to shame for both parties and deviate far from a biblical apologetic goal. An Advent Apologetic, is one that is familiar with real struggle and is willing to join others in it. 

Most of us, if we’ll admit it, do not trust God in times of struggle because we really don’t trust God when things are going well. We develop our faith arguments to cover up our own frailty and then foist them on others to make ourselves feel better.

Apologetics is about hope, and not hoping you’ll be able to win arguments. Advent Apologetics is benevolent. But again, as C.S. Lewis has said;

“Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment.”

An Advent Apologetic based in love is not rude, does not irritate, and does not portray resentfulness. (1 Corinthians 13:5)

We are about to enter in to the hurt and suffering of many. Our goal is to develop long-lasting relationships and alleviate a bit of the physical needs right now. You can help by contributing to feed a family of 4 for a week via our Christmas Basket Project. Click here for details.

51 Things You Can Do To Make Mission The Priority Of Your Church – Part I

images1.  Dedicate 51% of your entire budget to Missions

2.  Dedicate 51% of your time to mission work

3.  Declassify 51% of what you call ‘ministry,’ and ask yourselves if it qualifies as the Missio Dei.

4.  Sell off 51% of your sound and media equipment used in ’worship,’ and use it to support international missions.

5.  Make Sunday School 51% less about studying the bible, and more about serving others who would never attend Sunday School.

6.  Spend 51% of your church planting and church growth planning sessions on figuring out how to better make disciples.

7.  Shrink your coffee and pastry servings by 51% and go feed some homeless people.

8.  Figure out how to shave 51% off of your new building project and instead, invest it in your local community.

9.  Shut down any ministry that requires more than half of its income to sustain itself.

10.  Cut your short-term mission budgets in half and have the same impact. (Yes, it’s entirely possible)

11.  Stop taking out newspaper ads which are only read by 3% of the population and send real letters to harvest workers all over the globe.

12.  If someone mentions a Fog Machine, ‘restore such a one with humility.’

13.  Stop sending your leadership to learn from successful Mega-Churches which practice none of these things.

14.  That ‘Discipleship’ Conference? Nix it. They rarely result in Disciples anyway. Instead, send them out 2 by2 into the real lives of others.

15.  The ‘Gospel of the Kingdom.’ Get it Straight!

16.  Tell your ‘Mother Church’ or Denominational Headquarters that instead of kicking up a percentage of your offerings to them, you’re going to send and support more missionaries from your local congregation. They’ll understand.

17.  Did I mention Make Disciples?

Parts II and III to follow shortly…

Before I get to those, What would you add to this list?

Advent Apologetics Day #10 – Unable to Cope

harpSome would think that the attitude of Advent and those often expressed via Apologetics, are at odds with each other.  Advent actions and attitudes are often described with words like patience, waiting, and hope.  Apologetics is often associated with abrasiveness, pompous posturing, and pithy argumentation.  

What if we adopted an attitude of Advent in our apologetics all the time? 

This series will conclude with  1 Peter 3:15, everyone’s favorite apologetics verse.  Until then, I’d like to look to some other texts that I believe are important to any discussion on apologetics. Todays text is Acts 6:8-10

“And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.  But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen.  But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.”

Of particular interest is the last sentence, “But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.”  The NIV translates it this way;

“But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.”

When they could not answer Stephen’s arguments as a well known debaters, they prosecuted him as a criminal.  They could not resist the Spirit that was in him.  Later, Steven would say concerning them; “How stubborn can you be? How can you be so heartless and disobedient? You’re just like your ancestors. They always opposed the Holy Spirit, and so do you!”

Often, apologetics is centered on intellectual prowess or keen debating skills.  It is also primarily focused on the spoken word.  Steven’s apologetic contained three critical components;

  1.  Action or deeds

2.  Being present amongst others

and

3.  Spiritually empowered disposition and discourse.

An Advent Apologetic includes all three.

Thomas a Kempis once said;

“For truly it is not deep words that makes one holy and upright; it is a good life which makes one dear to God. I had rather feel contrition than be skillful in the definition of it. If you know the whole Bible, and the sayings of all the philosophers, what should this profit you without the love and grace of God?”

 

Celebrate Advent by feeding a family over the Holiday Season. Click here for more details.

 

 

Advent Apologetics Day #9 – Changing Minds?

starIf repentance = “Changing one’s mind,” and “repentance leads to life” (Acts 11:18, 2 Corinthians 7:10), then changing one’s mind leads to life.  

If that’s correct, then the goal of apologetics should be to help others (with the hope) (1 Peter 1:3) change their minds.  

The Bible points out that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19). Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.

Regarding these thoughts, I’ve come across two interesting quotes that seem to contradict each other:

1.  “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.”  

This quote comes from Jerry Sternin’s book The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems.

and

2.  “You have to change your mind before you change the way you live and move.”  

This quote is by singer Scott-Heron and pointed out in a book by Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw titled Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians

I love the tension in these two ideas, especially as it relates to apologetics and this series. Whether we must act our way into a new way of thinking or think our way into a new way of acting well represents the challenge and friction in modern-day apologetics.

It would be easy to say this is a “Both & And” situation and not an “Either Or,” but how you approach apologetics and people will demonstrate which approach you are more disposed to.  Two questions:

What has been your best approach to get another to change his or her mind?

What does an apologetic action look like to you?  Be specific.  

 

Celebrate Advent by feeding a family over the Holiday Season.  Click here for more details.