I Hate it When God Lies!

I can remember shaking my fist at the heavens and calling Jesus a liar. I was, in a manner of speaking ‘at the end of my rope’ with God. You see, when Jesus said “My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:130) NLT, and I was weighed down with trying to ‘do’ Christianity and the apparent ‘failings’ in that endeavor, I blamed God and called him a liar. This eventually led to a departure, of sorts, from the faith.

After realizing that I was trying to be something that Jesus never wanted of me in the first place, that is ‘being a good christian,’ and trying to do it under compulsion of others who had supposedly and already figured out how to ‘be good christians,’ and that I was striving for ‘spiritual goodness’ in my own strength, I repented of bearing false witness against God and then understood how easy and light Jesus’ yoke really was.

Fast forward many years after having become a missionary, after making many disciples by ‘going,’ baptizing,’ and ’teaching others to obey all that Christ commanded,’ after having passed through many trials and challenges, and after taking a fresh journey through the scriptures, I’ve gotten stuck on some of those verses which makes me (not that I will) want to call God a liar again. (As if I didn’t learn my lesson the first time) Those verses are Deuteronomy 30:11-14

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.”

It’s Not too difficult

It’s not beyond your reach

It’s not far away

You don’t have to ask others what it means

It’s totally within your ability to obey it and live

Now, I can either accept these very plain words in Deuteronomy and say to my mind that what God says is true and be done with calling God a liar or I can say with everyone else that It was impossible for anyone to keep the Law as evidenced by their continued failure to do so. If it was ‘impossible’ to keep the law, then it’s simple. God lied. So, I think I have matured in enough in the faith to say that the common theology that suggests keeping God’s law and choosing life was ‘impossible’ must be wrong.

That is, of course, unless there’s a third option. This set of verses is not unlike the ‘my yoke is easy’ set of verses, and yet I find myself thinking about God lying again.  A few questions:

What do you think? Is God lying in Deuteronomy 30:11-14?

Was it really ‘impossible’ to live out God’s law in the Old Covenant?

Is it impossible to live out Christ’s commands in the New Covenant?

Another Look on Whether or not All Christians are Missionaries

It’s hip to say that “Every Christian is a Missionary,” or “Every Christian ‘ought to be’ a missionary,” or even, when in our own predisposed contexts say; “We are all missionaries.”

but look at the following proposition;

“If God is a missionary God, and we are created in His image, then the people of God should be a missionary people.” 

Seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

The problem is one of language. Should God’s people be missionary-ish? I believe they should. Should all God’s people be ‘missionaries’ in the most common understanding of the word? Let’s consider these before answering;

  • “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.”

This is a quote from the famous 19th Century British pastor and theologian, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He was a megachurch Pastor in his day. He was called ‘The Prince of Preachers,’ and it is estimated that he presented the gospel to over 10 million people in his life. That’s Astounding!  If only .01% went on to be earnest followers of Christ, then he could well have made 1000 disciples!

I don’t think that Spurgeon was inferring that every believer had to pack their stuff and head to some secret and dangerous ‘unreached’ local. I believe he was saying that every believer should embrace their sent-hood and adopt attitudes and actions that reflect God’s ‘on the move’ nature. (In Him we live and move and have our being)

Jesus was the archetypal missionary. 40 times in the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to himself as “sent” on a mission. He left his home and glory in heaven, left his family, and left his ‘culture’ to come to the earth as a missionary to reach a people, who without that sent-hood, would have never been reconciled with the Father.

Jesus also inferred that every believer is sent. “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world (John 17:18).” There is a question of scope. Was Jesus truly referring to EVERY BELIEVER in John 17? If He was, then is there really such a thing as a subset of believers that are called ‘missionaries?’ Let’s see what others have to say on the subject:

  • Tim Keller communicates a similar concept in Center Church. He says, “Not only the apostles but every Christian did evangelism — and they did so endlessly. Numerous passages indicate that every Christian was expected to evangelize, follow-up, nurture, and teach people the Word. This happened relationally — one person bringing the gospel to another within the context of a relationship.”
  • Winkie Pratney, New Zealand evangelist and author, says, “Every Christian a missionary; every non-Christian a mission-field.”
  • Allen Turner says that, “The ‘going’ that God commands of His people is not limited to an elite group of super-Christians, even as it was not limited to the apostles to whom it was first given.” Further, it is not limited to far away places that inevitably involve the crossing of large bodies of salt water. On the contrary, the Lord calls every Christian to be a missionary. In doing so, He commands all of us to “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Yes, I realize that the Lord first directed this to His apostles, but most interpreters have understood that this wasn’t limited to them alone. In fact, and this by way of extension, it is every Christian’s “call” to the mission field—a field made up not only of exotic sounding places and far away locations, but one that includes our houses, our neighborhoods, and our communities. It includes the factories and offices where we work and the schools we attend. In reality, the mission field may be as unromantic and unexotic as that area just over our backyard fences. In other words, although we Christians are no longer “of the world,” through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we are still “in the world” (John 17:6-19), and it is to this world—the one in which we live every day—that the Lord has called us to be missionaries.
  • Eddie Arthur says that, “Some think that only ‘some people GO’ – the rest of us can stay behind and pray and give. But, this just isn’t what the Bible story is getting at. God is on a mission and we are called to be followers of this mission-oriented God.

    Mission isn’t something we are to do, it is what we are. To ask whether All Christians are called to be missionaries is a bit like asking whether all dogs should have four legs.

  • Ernest Goodman says that, “The new paradigm is simple: all Christians are missionaries. They must be, because none of us are at “home.” Even if your ministry is to a group of people that you grew up with- a group that looks, talks, and acts just like you – you must recognize that your transformation in Christ necessarily makes you an outsider- a foreigner- to even your own culture. You can’t afford to assume that you are ministering in your own context. You don’t have a context in the world anymore.”

I have heard variations on this theme, namely that “Simply living in the spirit of Jesus Christ is a powerful witness to those around us and marks us out as a missionaries in the modern world,” but in my view, it lacks intentionality and the seemingly imperative sent-hood.

All of those examples, and many more, would seem to confirm that yes, indeed, all Christians should be considered missionaries.

Whose Job is missions anyway? 

Now let’s look at some opposing views.

  • Charles Ryrie has pointed out that we must distinguish between a general practice in the church and a special gift which God gives to some in that area.
  • Herbert Kane has suggested that although it is not possible to give a flawless, scientific definition of a missionary, the following one should suffice: In the traditional sense the term missionary has been reserved for those who have been called by God to a full-time ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4), and who have crossed geographical and/or cultural boundaries (Acts 22:21) to preach the gospel in those areas of the world where Jesus Christ is largely, if not entirely unknown (Rom. 15:20). Not everyone, I think, fits THAT description of a missionary.
  • Guy Muse, a fellow laborer and missionary here in Ecuador says that; “One of the common misconceptions about missions is that all believers are missionaries. It continues to be stated so often that few question the validity of this oft quoted misconception making the rounds from our pulpits and missions conferences. I truly wish it were true, but frequent repetition does not make it so. I believe we need to correct the language we are using and stop calling all believers missionaries.
  • Gordon Olson says it well when he states: “If every Christian is already considered a missionary, then all can stay put where they are, and nobody needs to get up and go anywhere to preach the gospel. But if our only concern is to witness where we are, how will people in unevangelized areas ever hear the gospel?”

Guy also says that; “The Great Commission is taking the Gospel to our Jerusalem. This is where we live. It is where most of our time, efforts and ministry are centered. But Holy Spirit empowered believers are likewise charged to be His witnesses to their Judea, Samaria, and, yes: the ends of the earth–the nations. When we begin to move beyond our Jerusalem and seek to engage our Judea, Samaria, and the nations–then, we become missionaries–the sent ones that we are meant to be.” (You can read his blog post in full here.

Guy concludes by saying that;

“Everyone may indeed NOT be a missionary, but it is my belief that we should deliberately seek to do everything in our power to make sure we ARE missionaries.”

Some personal thoughts; playing ‘devil’s advocate in my head…

  • As I stated before, it’s a problem of language. The concept of a missionary can be traced to Acts 13:2-3. During a revival, God told the church to send out Paul and Barnabas.  While every believer within the nascent church was a witness, it was the Spirit who separated Paul and Barnabas to be missionaries. It was the Holy Spirit communicate directly to the prophets and teachers in Antioch and told them to send out Paul and Barnabas.

    Antioch DID NOT commission Paul and Barnabas as missionaries, they just obeyed the Spirit who already made them missionary-ish and sent them.

  • The elements of the missionary call were these: God called specific individuals, the church either came alongside that call or not, they covenanted with them to be supportive, and sent them. The missionaries would relay information and sometimes report back.
  • This description does not necessarily fit every Christian, and to say that every believer is a missionary will only make a useful term meaningless. One has said. “If mission is everything, then nothing is mission.”  We could just as easily say, “If everyone is a missionary, then no one is a missionary.”
  • Further, there are ‘other’ works and words to consider. All believers may be ‘witnesses,’ (Acts 1:8) but not missionaries (Although being a light to the nations sounds very missionary-ish to me). We may all be ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20), or the gospel message (Christians are God’s ambassadors in that they have been “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thessalonians 2:4), but not ‘missionaries.’ (Although reconciling and gospel bearing sounds very missionary-ish to me) We are all, comissioned to Make disciples of all nations (Matthew 20:18-20) but again, not be missionaries. (Although GOING, TEACHING, and BAPTIZING sounds very missionary-ish to m

I can’t remember where I read or heard this idea, but it goes something like this;

“If everyone is a missionary and everything we do is missions, then everyone that is unreached will remain unreached.”

This statement seems to overreach, pun intended, but I understand it’s point. While not every believer may properly be called a “missionary” by the traditional definition (e.g. someone who is sent by The Church for the purpose of growing The Church in a new and different place among unreached or under-reached people groups,) missionary-ish living should characterize the life of every believer.

Robert C. Shannon said,

“Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is — where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge.”

Some final thoughts: What’s the point of getting everyone to ‘buy into’ the thought that ALL ARE MISSIONARIES? If it’s to change hearts and minds and have people embrace there sent-hood, then it doesn’t appear to be working. There are still less than 1% of believers, when asked if they had made a disciple in the past year that answer in the affirmative.  There’s a good chance that if disciples are not being made by whatever ‘missionary’ endeavor the church finds itself in, then it’s not mission, and they are not missionaries anyway.

As Guy stated above, incessantly repeating the mantra will not make any more true.  Also, I happen to agree that we should start in our own Jerusalems (where you currenlty are), but it’s not a hard rule. Further, with the globalization of our own communities and the multi-cultural opportunities right next door, it’s cool to say that we CAN all be missionaries, but there are 2 things to consider;

First, there will always be those that God calls to the fringes, the marginalized, and the dispersed ones (diaspora). It’s no more cutting edge to minister within a multi-cultural community a stone’s throw away than on the fringes of a multi-cultural community ‘far away.’

Second, the bulk of multi-cultural or globalized communities exist in the world’s cities where there is free and easy access to the gospel. There would seem to be less need for ‘missionaries’ in that kind of environment. I say ‘seem,’ because I will not make that a hard rule either.

In case you were wondering, ‘sent-hood’ is a play on ‘sainthood.’ This post was updated from a post on April 13th of 2015. So, what say you?

Are all Christians Missionaries? 

Should We Stop Using Ezekiel 36 In The Way We’re Using It?

I’ve used it in this way, and so have you…

We pluck these words from their context:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

On either side of these 3 verses are ‘land.’ (Something very tangible, physical, and literal)

If the new heart, new spirit, cleanliness, and walking in his His ways are appropriated by us as active realities in this era, then why isn’t the rest of Ezekiel 36?

If we understand the prophetic promise verses 25-27 as ‘fulfilled,’ which most I know of you do, (Because I have seen you use it in evangelism and preaching), then how do you not account for a non-fulfillment of verses 24 and 28?  if verses 24 and 28 are not fulfilled yet, then wouldn’t it be reasonable to say that 25-27 are not yet fulfilled either.  If 25-27 ARE fulfilled in the ‘new covenant,’ ‘spiritually,’ then again, it would be reasonable to assume that verses 24 and 28 are also fulfilled spiritually.

We do have another choice. We can say that this ‘new covenant’ promise doesn’t apply to us at all we shouldn’t be usurping and co-opting it to suit our own ends. After all, God told them he wasn’t doing those things for their (our) sakes, but for the sake of His own name.

Caveat: I do believe that we ‘new-covenanters’ can arrive at cleanness, hearts inclined toward God, being led by the Spirit, and walking in God’s ways, WITHOUT hijacking Ezekiel 36:25-27.

I personally think that the new heart, new story, new life, concepts as found in Ezekiel are wonderfully impactful and fruitful, but I have to wonder whether or not we should be using those passages as we commonly do.  A few questions:

1.  Would you personally say that you have been cleansed, had a stone heart-ectomy, are led by the Spirit, and walk in his ways? If yes, would you also consider your state as the fulfilled promise made through Ezekiel

2.  Do you think Ezekiel 36 is best interpreted literally or spiritually or mixed? If mixed, which are which? If literal, what is the land in verses 24 and 28?

3.  If God said that He would ‘cause’ us to walk in His ways (A promise), and you’re not, how do you account for this? That is, if you appropriate these prophetic promises as your own.

Bonus Question 😛

Has Ezekiel 36 happened yet? 

For the sake of your own Souls, Please DO NOT ‘Obey your Pastors’

In one of our previous Discipleship Group settings, we had what I would consider a MAJOR breakthrough, a liberation of sorts.  Here’s what happened.  We were going through the Ephesians 4 giftings, and collectively considering what might be the predominant characteristics of an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, and Pastor-Teacher.  The evening unfolded many “eye-opening” concepts for the group, but one in particular shocked me.

In the midst of our exploration of the scriptures, one raised the issue that we were “to obey our Pastors in all things.”  My first thought was “where’s that in the bible?” I challenged the person to show me where the scriptures said that.  He came back to me with Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

You see, in Spanish, in all of the versions except for one, it says, “Obey your Pastors and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” After asking a few questions, I found out that this verse was being used to enslave the congregation.  It was used to exercise unwarranted control over the local body.  It was, in fact, completely effective, because they believed that this was “biblical,” and they ‘had to’ do whatever their pastor told them.  They believed it so strongly that at first they thought I might be incorrect and contradicting God’s word.  As we pushed further on this, eyes began to open, hearts were set free, and sound doctrine washed away false guilt. It was as if a tremendous weight was lifted from them.

I am still investigating why many of the translation committees for the Spanish versions of the Bible inserted the word “pastor” here.  To me, this example demonstrates clearly how a a misconception of church and a mistranslation, can snare the people of God.  I believe that “truth always sets free and error always binds,” but in this particular case, I saw the chains fall off.

I thank the Lord for opening our eyes together, for this gift of freedom, and for ‘setting captives free.’

Have you had similar experience with bad translations? I would much appreciate a short comment if you have.

This is a repost from 2012, but be sure to check out the comments below.

How Exactly, is One Supposed to ‘Obey the Gospel?’

 

i_dont_know_woman_1209x800The gospel, simply stated, is the ‘good news’ that God has sent his son Jesus Christ into the world in order to reconcile Creator to creation. It is a powerful message (Romans 1:16), that brings salvation.  It is a communiqué that regenerates people’s hearts through the Holy Spirit and renews all of God’s creation as He establishes His Kingdom through King Jesus. It is the truth that Jesus Christ was sent from the God the Father, empowered by God the Spirit, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for the atonement of sinners, and rose from the dead triumphing over satan, sin, and death in accordance with the Scriptures. It is a narrative about the God who looked with compassion on people and entered into history to change it and the future.

Since the gospel is both story and news, it is somewhat distinct from the commandments given to Moses for Israel and even, apparently, different from all that Christ commanded. It is easy, at least intellectually, to understand how one must obey commands. It’s a bit more difficult to understand how to obey a story or news. None the less, the scriptures call us to ‘obey the gospel.’ Here are some examples:

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” (Romans 10:16 ESV)

As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. (2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT)

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:8 NIV)

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17) NASB

“Obey” is one of those words which makes people cringe. Properly, it is to obey what is heard… literally, “under hearing,” or listening to the one giving the command (order). It suggests attentively listening, i.e. a fully compliant (response). It can also be considered an “intensification” of the simple verb “to listen.”

In the second passage above (2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT), some versions use the word “obey” and others do not. What is clear in that passage is the idea of “obeying the confession of the gospel while in the service of others.”

The last passage (1 Peter 4:17 NASB) doesn’t actually use the word “obey,” but “disobey” apeithéō – literally, refuse to be persuaded (by the Lord) and it’s where we get our word “apathy.”

I can ‘work’ towards obeying commands, but ‘obeying’ the gospel? Surely the gospel is a message of Grace and of Hope and of Kingdom and of Peace and of Reconciliation. It exemplifies both messenger and message, and is the power of God unto salvation for those that believe (Romans 1:16), but how does one ‘obey’ that?

Last thought; We don’t obey a command of God and say we’re finished. Likewise I don’t believe that we can say we’ve obeyed the gospel by responding, ‘accepting Christ into our hearts,’ or believing the message once. Whatever it means to ‘obey the gospel,’ it is certainly an ongoing process.

But, how do you suppose the Gospel is to be “obeyed?” How does one obey ‘news’ or a story? 

Reposted and slightly revised from an early blog of mine. Please be sure to check out the comments.

You Obey Jesus’ Commands AND Walk as He Walked… Right?

That we are to obey all that Jesus commanded is practically, for someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus, a given.  Christians tend to be very astute in knowing ALL of Jesus’ commands and pointing out those that don’t obey them. If we had to narrow down all of Jesus’ commands and subtract out the ones he repeated, we’d have roughly 50 or so unique commands of Christ. Sounds doable. I mean, if the assumption is that we CAN actually obey all of Jesus’ commands, then it should be achievable, right?

Before you jump on my case, I do assume that the Spirit, acting on the New Covenant promise; “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances,” (Ezekiel 36:27) is the ‘engine’ that drives obedience. Now that we have that cleared up, let’s move on…

It is clear that if we claim to love Jesus we will keep His commandments. (John 14:15, John 14:21, 1 John 2:3, 1 John 5:3) etc.

In addition to keeping Jesus’ commands, or so it seems, we are also to ‘walk the way He walked.’ (1 John 2:6) Further, we are to live the way He lived, do the things He did, and even trace His steps (1 Peter 2:21).

Now, I suppose it can be argued that ‘keeping His commands’ and ‘walking as He walked’ can be synonymous or even complimentary, but that poses a slight problem:

If we look at the 50-ish commands of Jesus, we don’t have ‘commands’ to obey the Sabbath, keep the feasts, be circumcised, etc. expressly repeated by Jesus. It’s as if his spoken commands are a ‘subset’ of the whole of Torah in which he walked. To put it another way, He ‘walked’ Torah (The Whole Law) If you’re going to walk the way he walked then you too should walk the whole Torah. Right?

There’s a lot of ’Torah’ that Jesus did not command again or reiterate.  Again, I suppose that the argument could be made that all of those things were assumed, but then we’d have to deal with the issue of how exactly we’re suppose to live as Jesus did, walk as He walked, and do what He did WITHOUT doing, living, and walking, exactly as He did.

If we do have to keep His commands, which I think we do, and that’s it, then I think we’ve got it nailed down or at least have something solid to go on. But, if we have to keep His commands AND walk as He walked, live as He lived, and do what He did, then I think that most of the Church has got this ‘following Jesus’ stuff wrong.

If however ‘walking as He walked’ doesn’t mean that we have to walk EXACTLY as He walked, and that there’s a lot of playroom in our walk, then we’re golden.

So which is it? Do we have to keep His commands AND walk the way the He walked, or just keep His commands? If we do have to do both, then what part of His commands do we REALLY have to keep and which parts of the way He walked to we REALLY have to walk in?

If You Build it God’s Way, They Won’t Come

Every missionary by necessity comes to a place in their calling where they must decide whether or not to sell their birthright for a crappy cup of soup. By ‘birthright,’ I mean the reason why they become a missionaries in the first place. Let’s talk about that for a minute…

Did you become a missionary to ‘get people saved?’ Be honest. Do you go on short-term mission trips to ‘get people saved?’ Again, be honest.

Is ‘getting people saved’ the purpose of the mission or the missionary?

If you answered ‘yes,’ our mission is to ‘get people saved,’ then the way you relate to people, the way you translate culture, the way you point people to God, and even the very nature of gospel you preach will be crippled from the outset. You will, by nature, also transmit that crippling system to others and may very well prevent people from approaching God in the WAY that He would have them approach.

That system is easy to build. It draws its blood stained blueprints from the industrial ecclesiastical machine and replicates itself like some self aware hydro-electric station sucking ‘strength’ from rivers of flowing water without permission. It smacks of missionaries going to the ‘mission field’ simply to host short-term mission teams. Sure that system attracts people and ‘if you build it they will come,’ they will come with resources and and give you a portion of their resources to ‘sustain’ you and the work right up until you realize that the system actually kills mission and you seek to distance yourself from it.  Leave their system, or try to, and they will not come.

It’s time for the Jael’s of the missionary world to take up mallets and drive tent pegs through the ‘temples’ of those systems. (Judges 4:12-24)

Now, if the purpose of mission transcends ‘getting people saved,’ then we must, with great striving, get our birthright back. The missionary must demolish every ‘mission’ argument and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we must take captive every contrary mission system or thinking and make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Once you begin fashioning your mission in God’s way, once you start the ‘mission’ (diakonian) of reconciling people to God (2 Corinthians 5:18), and stop trying to ‘save’ people from Him, the unnaturally propped up and crippling mission of anemic salvation will begin to starve.  Its initial hunger pangs will cause it to lash out at you like a demoniac being exorcised. Its legion of devoted followers will seek refuge amongst the pigs and beckon you to join them.

The mission is to make disciples of all nations. Teaching them to observe/follow/obey all that Christ commanded, and to immerse them in all that the name of the Father and Son and Spirit means. (Matthew 28:19,20) It is to disperse the Gospel of the Kingdom to all creation and live it in their midsts. (Mark 16:15) It is to lay hold of every opportunity to further reconcile ourselves and others to God.

It is certainly not ‘WHAM BAM SALVATION SLAM’ and go on to the next ‘unreached’ people group to do the same. Why are MISSIONARIES (short and long-term) not Making Disciples? Because they are holding fast to traditions of men and neglecting the commandment of God.

Was There Evangelism in the Old Testament?

In order to consider Old Testament Evangelism properly, we’ll have to define “evangelism.”  Evangelism is not soul-winning.  Evangelism is simply announcing, declaring, or preaching the good news, glad tidings, or the person of Christ Himself.  The Gospel is sometimes expressed as a person, Christ, bet never expressed apart from him.  The God Message and the God-Man are always connected.  The Gospel is always the person of Christ, and His message.  To proclaim Christ and His message is evangelism.

When discussing Old Testament Evangelism however, some may suggest that they (Old Testament Saints) and us (New Testament Believers) are at a disadvantage because the Whole Gospel didn’t exist yet.  In other words the story of Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death are critical components of “The Gospel,” and they didn’t have those components.  Further, some may suggest that without the Full-Gospel, it’s impossible to evangelize because evangelism requires the full gospel.  To them, Evangelism or Gospelizing, is the announcing of the completed message of the good news. 

It is important to recognize that the people of Israel were set apart by the Lord to be a holy people and at the same time to be a light and a blessing to the nations around them.  In Genesis 12:1-3, which tells us about the calling of Abraham. The Lord called him to leave his country, his people and his father’s household and to go to the land the Lord would show him. The Lord promised Abraham that He would make him into a great nation, that He would bless him and that Abraham would be a blessing. The promise ends with these words: “… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:3)  I think it’s impossible to assume that simple existence (being light) was sufficient enough to be considered evangelism, but that “being a blessing” begins to approach it.  Simple perseverance as a people of God without persistence in the proclamation of Him to others was never God’s way.    

  • They were to be a Kingdom of Priests AND a Holy Nation with a message. Exodus 19:6

Much the same for us today in the New Testament era, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

  • The introduction of Psalm 67, in a sense, is an evangelism prayer.  “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” Psalm 67:1,2
  • Israel was called to faith and repentance: Deut. 30:8; Josh. 24:15; Lev. 5:5; 16:29-31; Deut 10:16, Ezek. 18:30-31
  • Israel was called witness to their children: Deut. 6:7, 20-25
  • Israel was called to witness to their neighbors: Jer. 31:34;
  • David’s call was to witness to the nations: Ps. 18:49;
  • David’s prayer was that salvation would be known among all the nations: Ps. 67;
  • David’s confidence was that all nations would be converted: Ps. 22:27;
  • The prophets had “missionary” work: Isa. 2:2-4; 19:25; 40:5, 9; 42:6; 45:22; 49:6; 56:7; 66:19; Zech. 8:23; cf. Ps. 68:31; 85:92 

 Reflection:  I was noticing the similarities between the evangelistic episodes in the Old Testament, particularly that of Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram in 2 Kings 5:15 and unbelievers in the New Testament.  How so?  Here’s what Naaman confessed after coming to faith…  “there is no God in all the world except in Israel”

God Himself  is the Archetypal Evangelist. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians said;

For because God knew beforehand that the nations are made right by faith, he preached The Good News to Abraham beforehand, as The Holy Scriptures say: “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8) Aramaic Bible in Plain English

And later

Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. (Galatians 3:15-18)

It is clear that ‘the gospel’ preached to Abraham was that his ‘seed’ (Christ), all would be blessed. Back up in Galatians 3:7 it says, “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.”

In the New Testament, it says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:9,10  One thing of note in this passage: 

Simply speaking or ‘confessing’ some incantation, repeating a prayer, and the like is not what this verse is talking about. Belief results in righteousness. A life time of confession results in salvation.

It is not my intention to make a hard division here between the Old Testament and the New in the way how God conveys his message of hope.  In fact, when it comes to evangelism, I’m hoping to find a consensus that the its starting point is NOT in the New Testament and certainly NOT only in the New Testament. A New Testament gospel is only a half-gospel which yields half-way disciples.

A few questions:

1.  Was Old Testament “Evangelism” really evangelism, or was it something else?

2.  Can you do biblical evangelism with only  half the story?

3.  What benchmarks did Old Testament saints use to gauge their evangelism effectiveness?  

 

We Missionaries Broke The Church, and We’re Sorry…

First off, I am a missionary and have participated in ‘mission activities’ with hundreds of other missionaries. On my behalf, I apologize for breaking the church, and as with any sincere apology, I have sought repentance and continue to do so.

How have I broken the Church? By preaching a broken gospel which creates broken ‘believers’ and corralling them into broken systems. How do I know when I have contributed to breaking the church?  I know when it doesn’t make disciples of Jesus the Christ that make other disciples of Jesus the Christ beyond my own generation. I know the church is broken when more time, energy, people, and other resources are put into sustaining that broken system than in mission. Specifically the mission of making disciples of Jesus the Christ.

Scot Mcknight says it in this way:

“I believe we are mistaken, and that mistake is creating problems we are trying to solve. But as long as we remain mistaken, we will never solve the problems. Our system (church) is broken and our so-called gospel broke it. We can’t keep trying to improve the mechanics of the system (church) because they’re not the problem. The problem is that the system is doing what it should do (wrongly) because it is energized by a badly shaped gospel.” *

I remember more than 11 years ago being thrust into the mission field with my church-shaped / salvation-hunter gospel. If I had to boil down that gospel to 3 words, those words would be ‘GET-THEM-SAVED.’ Once the cycle begins, it nearly impossible to escape.  Broken Gospel = Broken Mission = Broken Church = Sending out Broken Missionaries which reinforce and propagate the broken system.

If ‘salvations’ were to be the measure of missionary success, then I’d have to say that I was going gangbusters. If however, missionary success was to be measured by multi-generational maturing disciples (follower-learners) of Jesus, then I’d have to admit failure and my own sin. All those times when I adopted a ‘toss a dirt ball on someones carpet’ to sell a vacuum gospel, and being convicted in my spirit for doing so, were opportunities for course corrections that I ignored and sin  that I wanted to continue in. Yes, sin… and if subjecting the Gospel of the Kingdom to my broken and selfish desire to ‘win a soul’ is sin, then I must repent.

I want to make it clear here. I, and many of my fellow missionaries mistook ‘the plan of salvation’ for the gospel. When I did that, I used techniques, and dare I say gimmicks, to get them into the ‘decided’ camp instead of the disciple camp. Once someone prayed a prayer, stepped forward during an altar call, or even ‘confessed Christ as Lord,’ my task was done. “Not really done” I told myself, because I would do ‘follow-up’ or hand them over to someone else who would.  If I was honest with myself, and in retrospect, I was never comfortable with handing over a soul I ‘won’ to a system that was already broken, i.e., a church that was more interested in churchy stuff than actually making disciples of Jesus.  If I were to follow up my evangelistic efforts with what I thought was discipleship, then I would almost always be frustrated and disappointed when those who made decisions, confessed Jesus as Lord, or made some other ‘profession of faith never actually got around to actually making disciples.

“Maybe I could tweak my methods” I thought. “Maybe I could be more focused on social justice, or meeting people’s physical needs, or even be more consistently ‘present’ amongst those who I was trying win” I thought further.  But no matter how much I nuanced my broken gospel, it didn’t produce disciples of Jesus. Sure, sometimes God would ‘use’ my efforts for His glory and change a person’s heart, but more often than not, the majority of those who made a profession of faith would fizzle out before ever making their first disciple.

It’s universal! More than 70% of people who are won by ‘the plan of salvation’ gospel never end up making one disciple. And, a large percentage of those walk away from God permanently.  I did this! I was directly involved in pushing people away from God and pushing broken people into broken churches so they could mass produce a broken gospel people.

I’m sorry

It was time to flee from Gospel Immorality! Something had to change. I could no longer be numbered with those who preach a broken gospel.  If the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe (Romans 1:16), and I believe it is, and if the gospel transforms, renews, reconciles, and restores a right relationship with God, which it does, then that’s the unbroken gospel that I want to share with others. The unbroken gospel can also Crazy-Glue the church back together so that she becomes the mission that she was intended to be.

It took me a while to ‘get there.’ I regret it. If I were to be even more transparent, I’d say that I might even be angry about it. Angry that those who ’knew better’ kept letting me off the hook. But maybe they were broken too and just didn’t know yet.

One consistent trend that I have seen with seasoned missionaries is that they too get to the point where they jettison the broken gospel for a full orbed Kingdom Gospel, a Kingdom Gospel of peace and grace and glory; a gospel that is everlasting and transformative and reconciling, a gospel that produces disciples (Acts 14:21)

Yes, I am a missionary and I took part in breaking the church. I’m sorry…

This is normally where I would ask some questions, but I thought I’d just let it be as it stands. Please use the comment section below for your ‘Raw’ reactions. Thanks.

*McKnight, Scot (2011-09-06). The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (p. 26). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Is Mission an Attribute of God?

Robert E. Speer, in his Duff Lectures of 1910, said…

“The Last command of Christ (the Great Commission) is not the deep and final ground of the Church’s missionary duty. That duty is authoritatively stated in the words of the great commission, and it is of infinite consequence to have had it so stated by our Lord Himself. But if these particular words had never been spoken by Him, or if, having been spoken, they had not been preserved, the missionary duty of the Church would not be in the least affected. The supreme arguments for missions are not found in any specific words. It is in the very being and character of God that the deepest ground of the missionary enterprise is to be found. We cannot think of God except in terms which necessitate the missionary idea.“

In the Lausanne Covenant of July, 1974, There was a recommitment to world evangelism in Switzerland by an international gathering of evangelicals “moved to penitence by our failures and challenged by the unfinished task of evangelization.” John Stott’s talk in Loma Linda was a succinct statement of that credo which he divided into five parts:

The Old Testament God was a Missionary God

The Christ of the Gospels is a Missionary Christ

The Holy Spirit of Acts is a Missionary Spirit

The Church of the Epistles is a Missionary Church

The Vision of Revelation shows a Missionary Climax

In their book, Missional Essentials, Brad Brisco and Lance Ford say, “Mission is the central biblical theme describing God’s activity throughout history to restore and heal creation.  While often over-looked, Scripture is full of sending language that speaks to the missionary nature of God.”

John G. Flett, in The Witness of God: The Trinity, Missio Dei, Karl Barth, and the Nature of Christian Community (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010)

Captures it in this way:  “Mission is the abundant fellowship of active participation in the very glory that is the life of God from and to all eternity. It is life in the community of reconciliation moving out in solidarity with the world in the active knowledge that God died for it, too. It is the response of doxology as we follow the Spirit’s lead as captives in the train of the living glorious Lord, the lamb that was slain.”

I’m fond of saying that ‘God is a missionary God,’ but I was recently ‘corrected’  by someone who objected and said that “mission is not an attribute of God, but a result of His attributes.”  I found that to be an interesting counter proposition. 

Is the idea of God being a missionary God (mission as part of His nature) valid? Or might it be an overstatement?