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?

 

 

There is no ‘Gentile’ Gospel

I have been chasing after, for many years, a gospel for the gentiles, as if it was something new in the New Covenant. However, I am coming to realize that a gospel for the gentiles has always existed. In reading sections of the Torah where God makes promises to ‘the strangers’ (gentiles) who join themselves to His people, the Psalms where David beckons the ‘Kings and Judges of the earth’ (gentiles), the prophets that were, in part directed to go to ‘the nations’ (gentiles) (Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Jonah) and even Jesus who preached the gospel to ‘Greeks’ (gentiles) in John 12. It appears as if there is no Jew or Gentile gospel, but one gospel for all those who would follow God.

Would then, the statement “There is no ‘Gentile’ gospel.” be correct?

What If You Died Tonight? Is the Wrong Evangelism Question!

“If you died tonight, where would you go, heaven or hell?”  How many times have you heard that question used in evangelism?  How many times have you used it yourself? What if I told you it might just be the wrong question and counter-productive to the aim of Christ and His Gospel?  What if I told you that those types of questions almost always lead into preaching shallow, false, and misleading gospels? (Galatians 1:8) The question’s intent, if we’re honest, is to provoke a conversation which will hopefully lead to ‘conversion.’ While I’ve seen it be effective in exactly that way, it rarely, if ever, leads to genuine disciples or discipleship.

If you were to stop using that question, just as test for a while, what other ‘lead-ins’  or ‘ice-breaking’ questions would you use to get  to the gospel?

This is a particularly important question because it gets right to your understanding of the gospel. How many of you would be at a loss in evangelism if that question were removed from your evangelistic efforts?  I would suggest avoiding it for a time, as an exercise of learning, and see what else you could come up with.

A better question might be something like this:  “If you live through this day, will you follow Christ?  The answer to that question is certainly more heart probing and certainly more difficult to answer.  Maybe you’re thinking, “But Isn’t “Today the day of salvation?”

Let’s look at where that comes from;  The first part comes from  Isaiah 49:8  “This is what the LORD says: “At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you.” NLT

The idea brought froward from it’s original use is “an accepted time” and “a day of salvation, NOT “the accepted time” and NOT “the day of salvation“. This means that now is an accepted time and now is a day of salvation but it IS NOT the ONLY accepted time and NOT the ONLY day of salvation.

With that, I think we can agree that it’s manipulative to try and get people to ‘make decisions’ or ‘join the decided’ in haste slathering them with slick sayings, shame, and fear. Maybe the question does more to expose the person asking it than the one whose soul they’re trying to win. Maybe it shows that they’re people who are inclined to trust in their own good works, or who are keeping themselves in check by a self-imposed sort of fear or artificially inflated emotions.  Perhaps it’s thought of as purposeful in expounding the hope of Christ, but, I think  it’s just leads down the same old path to a scripted, curt, and dangerous gospel that ekes out a repeated response or ‘sinner’s prayer.’  

Even when people respond with confidence by saying, “Oh, I’m definitely going to heaven,” some are poised to pounce and tell them why they’re not.  It’s almost as if they’re thinking to themselves;

“I’m not going to let this person keep me from my holy agenda.”

 “I’m not going to let the enemy make God’s word of no effect.” (Mark 7:13)

“I’m going to make sure that they’re really believers with my prescribed set of litmus questions,”

“I’m going to save them from their bad assumptions and from hell.”

Have you ever seen evangelizer get disappointed when coming across someone who already believes?  Yeah, me too.  It’s just one less notch on their “salvations” stick.  It grieves me when I hear someone report X #’s of “salvations.”  It usually means that X #’s prayed a “sinner’s prayer,” which usually means that X #’s heard an anemic gospel and X #’s of converts instead of disciples have been made.

The “If you died” question reduces the gospel unnecessarily and minimizes the opportunities to share God’s full message (The Gospel of the Kingdom), show God’s love consistently and over long periods of time, and subjects God’s possible demonstration of power to our schedules.  Chances are that most of our evangelism methods are ill prepared to allow all those things to happen.  It’s easier for us to give our shtick then it is to model our saviour.

The “If you died tonight” question takes God’s Judgement seat and makes it OUR pulpit from which to preach OUR version of the Good News to obtain our desired results.

 “The “if you died tonight” question attempts to induce labor on the fetus of reconciliation and repentance before, and often without, sufficient revelation”

“If you died tonight” makes the Gospel out to be a “Hell Pass” so they can walk through the hallowed halls of our shallow institutions. Remember when Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full?” He wasn’t talking about heaven, He was talking about the here and now.  He was preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, not the gospel of the copping out of life.

So instead of asking someone the question “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?”  Pray that God’s Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven,” for yourself and for the persons you encounter along your evangelistic paths. Maybe instead of asking “Where do you think you’ll spend eternity?” It might be better to ask “With whom do you want to spend eternity?” or “If you lived through this night, would you repent and believe?  Would you love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength?  Would you love your neighbor as yourself?

This post was revised and updated from a post in 2012

Thoughts?

 

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.