Sermon: 2016 at Faith

Blog Post:

Happy New Year 2016

Points:

Let us resolve as a church:

  1. To be a Great Commission Church. (Matthew 28:16-20)
  1. To be Willing & Ready to Change for the Sake of the Gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Illustration: Jonny & Robert

  1. To Spend Time Alone with God (Mark 1:35)

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Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours, A Study of the Church in the Four Provinces

By: Roland Allen

Missionary Methods is an important book in the history of cross-cultural missions.  It has had an impact on the way overseas missions is done and thought about all the way into the 21st century.  As the title makes clear, the point of the book is to examine Paul’s missionary methods and ascertain if we should be using his methods, or our methods.  In the book he advocates for the former, pushing against the colonial missions ideas that were prevalent in his day.  Ronald Allen was an Anglican missionary to China from 1895-1903.  As a missionary, he saw the problems with the colonial missions methods that were being utilized and returned to Scotland.  He began pushing for indigenous missions practices that would be used to more effectively share the gospel in the unreached and begin church planting movements.  This book flows out of Allen’s experience and struggles as he sought to determine how missions was to be done in his day.  After writing Missionary Methods in 1912, he went on to write The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes Which Hindered It in 1927, both of which are still used by missionaries and assigned in seminary classes.

Allen makes his thesis clear from the very start.  Paul’s missionary methods, primarily recorded in Acts, informs us on how to do missions and missionaries need to conform to his methods.  He states, “It is impossible but that the account so carefully given by St. Luke of the planting of the churches in the Four Provinces should have something more than a mere archaeological and historical interest.  Like the rest of the Holy Scriptures it was ‘written for our learning’” (6).  The most important obstacle to this thesis that Allen focuses on proving wrong, is the claim that Paul’s situation was different than ours so his methods are not as effective as our modern methods.  He makes clear, that the real reason Paul’s methods in the four provinces is undermined is because, “St. Paul’s method is not in harmony with the modern Western spirit” (9).  After the introduction in chapter one, Allen continues with ten chapters dealing with individual aspects of missions and how we learn from Paul how they ought to be handled.  Each of these chapters has a similar format and goal.  They seek to show how Paul’s situation and circumstance did not give him anymore of an advantage than we have.  Allen highlights the negative effects of doing missions our own way to point the reader to consider Paul’s way.  For example, when addressing the issue of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, he explains that when we try to select only a few people to do everything in a new Christian community, we end up running into several problems that Paul did not have when he trained leaders from within congregations to replace him (83-85). Furthermore, after explaining what Paul did in detail, he applies it to the modern missionary situation. His goal is the same throughout these sections; Paul’s method of doing missions must take presence over our own ideas and methodology. The book draws to a close with five rules for missionaries that he argues are essential to missions based off of Paul’s method explained in the preceding ten chapters.

Overall, Missionary Methods is a well written book that is greatly helpful for Christians seeking to understand how missions are to be done effectively and faithfully.  Though we live 2,000 years after Paul, Allen does a superb job in showing that his methods still work.  In fact, Paul’s methods are the only ones that are faithful.  The book’s thesis is biblically sound and argued practically.  Below, I explain that strength is primarily seen in its boldness, historical aptitude, sound overarching argument, insight into the barriers to missions and faithful use of the biblical text.

It is understandable why this book is still used and respected today.   As long as this book is read, it will continue to positively lead people away from faulty human based strategies to missions and towards the effective biblical pattern set forth by Paul.  No matter what someone’s background on missions, anyone who reads this book will have a hard time disagreeing with Allen.  He did a great job in showing how Paul’s missionary methods can work today as they worked in his day.  I would recommend this book to any Christian who is contemplating or doing cross-cultural missions.  The truths of the book had a large impact on me and the way I think about every aspect of missions from finances to authority.  Though the book is old, the truths are timeless and we should be thankful for the impact that Allen has had on the way people have thought about missions.

Book Review by Pastor Jonathan Ahlgren

You can buy the book here.

What is the Content of Faithful Proclamation?

As we think about preaching and evangelism, we want to have a biblical perspective of the content of the proclamation.  Whether you are a Mega-Church Pastor preaching to 3,000 people or a mother telling your neighbors about Jesus at a playground, you need to know what the content of your “proclamation” must be so that the words you speak can be more fruitful for God’s kingdom.

When we survey what the bible says about proclamation, one particular thing sticks out more than anything else.  That is the word euangelizō which means to proclaim the gospel.  It’s like a special word created to describe a certain type of proclamation.   A proclamation who’s content is the good news of Jesus.  This word is used 54 times in the New Testament!  So when we talk about the content of preaching we need to remember that the heart of the New Testament authors was to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Whether it was the apostles preaching in the temple and from house to house in Acts 5:42 or Paul desiring to preach to the Roman Believers in Romans 1:15, the heart of the content was the good news of Jesus.  The Gospel is the content of proclamation in evangelistic encounters and the content of faithful preaching in the local church.  A pastor is not being faithful to his task if he teaches about how to make life easier or how to reduce conflict without relating it directly to what Jesus did on the cross.  A well meaning christian is not being faithful in his task if he is telling people to go to church or to trust that God is real, if he does not clearly explain that there is forgiveness of sins found in Jesus Christ when the lost turn from their sins and trust in Jesus.   The gospel is the primary content of faithful proclamation.

Now that we have it established that the primary content of biblical proclamation, We need to consider how the authors of scripture give us more detail. The content of preaching is identified as the gospel of the grace of God, the kingdom, he whole counsel of God (Acts 20:24-27), Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1–5), the word (2 Timothy 4:2), repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3), repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations (Luke 24:47), the Christ is Jesus (Acts 5:42), good news of peace through Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36), not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5), not man’s gospel (Galatians 1:11), the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8), the word of God (Colossians 1:25), Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David (2 Timothy 2:8).  Their are many other passages that speak about the content of preaching but I think this list is a good starting point.  What sticks out to you here?  What sticks out to me is the riches of the gospel of Jesus!  What an amazing task that we have been given by God!  May we be faithful in the content of our proclamation!

Let us go out and Proclaim the Gospel!  To our neighbors, our friends, our grocery store clerk, our coworkers, our spouse, our kids, and everyone else we come in contact with. Read these two passages to yourself out loud and may God help you see the mission that he has called you to do.

1 Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Romans 10:13–15 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

This is blog two is a series on Biblical Proclamation.  Check part one: The All Day Sermon About the Law: The Example of Ezra for Preaching 

The Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places

By: Nik Ripken

The Insanity of Obedience is a book, that when read by a Christian cover to cover, is likely to change his life.  The reason that this book is so powerful and insightful, is that God clearly prepared Nik to write it.  He has been involved in foreign missions for over twenty-five years mainly in Africa and the Middle East.  After leaving Somalia, where he witnessed the loss of over 100 believers, Nik was devastated and embarked on a mission to learn about the persecuted church.  In The Insanity of Obedience we can see the fruit of Nik’s journey of interviewing over 600 believers who live in environments of persecution in over 70 countries.  This book is a priceless resource that will have an impact on missions for years to come.

Summary

Nik starts with an introductory chapter laying out the reality that Christians are called to be “sheep among wolves” (2), and then splits it up into five parts.  In part one, God’s Command to Go to the Nations, the author goes into detail about God’s calling on each and every Christian as a worker for the kingdom.  This part of the book explains how the reader ought to think about missions, while defining terms and tearing down any false ideas about persecution and the Christian’s mission.

In part two, The Birth of Faith in Persecution Environment, Nik seeks to explain how God has worked in the unreached persecuted setting to bring about a church much like he did on the day of Pentecost (118). The reader is able to learn individually about the conversions of Muslim Background Believers (MMB) and Hindu Background Believers (HBB) in this section.  This part is not focused on technique but is simply an observation of how God works to bring lost people to himself.

Part three, Reaching Grandma and the Rest of the Family, focuses on the continuing birth of the gospel among the unreached.  Nik gives special attention to common barriers to the spread of the gospel, circumstances that get in the way of the gospel including betrayal, as well as decisions of overseas workers that can end up destroying a believing community and increase persecution unnecessarily.  He then wraps up the section with case study comparing the situation and results in China and the USSR, and two chapters dealing with the dynamics and roles of baptism.

After the many chapters on barriers to the Gospel in part three, Nik jumps into practical help and wisdom in part four, Practical Matters.  This section deals with the many things that the overseas worker needs to watch out and things they need to consider such as matters relating to support for locals financially, training leaders, and staying focused on evangelism even when a group of believers begins to form. The book comes to a worshipful ending in part five, A Victorious Faith with an inspiring story of a persecuted Christian in Russia and a list of important truths to wrap up the book.

Evaluation

It is nearly impossible to describe what Nik Ripken has provided for God’s people in this book.  In parts of the book, the reader is full of joy as he reads about the way challenges overseas can be overcome through practical guidance and real life examples.  Other times, he is led to repentance and sorrow while reading about the tragic fruit of fear and unfaithfulness both overseas and in the West.  With the different feelings and thoughts that this book stirs in the readers mind, tears are practically unavoidable.  Yet through all of these emotions, the thoughts, and the tears, come a better understanding of  how Christians are to have victorious faith, both in the relatively safe Western countries, and in the harsh areas of the unreached and unengaged.  The result of this understanding is that God’s mission may go forth in the darkest areas of our world with less failure and more victory.  This is Nik’s aim in the book.  His goal in this book is to equip Christians and Churches with the tools they need to not just survive in difficult places, but to thrive.  Every single section in this book succeeded in this mission.

The biggest strength of this book is the way it is applicable to all Christian readers.  Most would expect a book like this to be for overseas missionaries, not ordinary American Christians but this is not so.  Every single chapter can be life changing even for those who are not overseas missionaries.  Nik makes clear early on that all Christians are called to missions and the book is mainly about overseas missions but has an almost equal application for non-persecuted Christians.  This reality becomes clear in his subtle statements about the western church.  For example, when talking about a Pentecostal Environment in Persecuted people-groups, Nik says, “God desires for such movements for every unengaged and unreached people group globally.  Does He not also desire such a movement in the West?” (126).  Also, while talking about the causes and effects of persecution, Nik points out that when Christians fail to share their faith,  they are choosing to identify themselves with persecutors of Christians and the lack of obedience brings the same result of persecution: “people are denied access to Jesus” (29).  These kinds of motivating statements are spread through the book and each chapter even ends with a set of questions that helps the reader to ponder and think about the material in their context and situation. This strength is what makes the book convicting and life changing.

Conclusion

This book is for every Christian, and every Christian should read it.  I completely agree with what Brother Andrew says in the forward, “Warning: this is a difficult book.  Not because it is hard to read, but because it makes me uncomfortable.  Radically uncomfortable!” (xix). I do not know about Brother Andrew, but the reason this book made me uncomfortable is because it opened my eyes to see challenges and barriers involved in reaching people for Jesus in difficult places while I was failing share Jesus with people I know.  Nik opened my eyes to help me see how most of us in the west are failing.  Our perspectives are off.  Our zeal for the mission of God is often waning.  For many churches, boldness in the faith is almost nonexistent.  Our un-willingness to give up what we want is causing us to be unfaithful in our mission to lead hell bound people to Jesus for life both in the states and overseas.

On top of this, I am much more equipped to reach Muslims and Hindus for Jesus and to work, through the spirit to bring about church Planting Movements in the hardest to reach areas of the world.  I understand with more clarity how to thrive in a place with intense persecution.  Equipped with the insight of this book, we as Christians can be smarter and more effective in bring the unreached to the gospel so that they may be saved.  What an amazing book this is!

Book Review by Pastor Jonathan Ahlgren

You can buy this book here.

You can buy his book, The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected here.