Simply by being a member of the church of Jesus Christ each Christian has a responsibility to be involved in the missionary call of the whole church. We should all be praying, all giving, all sending.
There are two particular passages in which the apostles call all believers to be involved in the work of evangelism. First a passage from Paul (Colossians 4:5-6), and then one from Peter (1 Peter 3:15-16).
The words of the Lord through His apostles are clear. Evangelism is not simply the task of church leaders, pastors, and evangelists who are specially called and gifted. (Though the New Testament does recognize the particular responsibility of leaders and pastors in this task and teaches us that God does indeed gift some for this work with special abilities; see, for example,Ephesians 4:7-12 and 2 Timothy 4:1-5.) But it is not only the teachers and evangelists who have this task set before them; rather, every believer is called to be ready “to give the reason for the hope that you have” and to “make the most of every opportunity.”
This is how we are to think about our own lives. We are always on trial for Christ; our faith is always on trial. In our homes before our children and spouses; in our schools and colleges before our teachers, students, friends, and classmates; in our workplaces before our colleagues, bosses, employees, and customers; when we are playing or relaxing; whatever we are engaged in, wherever we find ourselves, we are put there by God for “the defence of the gospel (Philippians 1:7).”
As Francis Schaeffer used to say often: “We live before a watching world.” It is incumbent, then, on us to remember that our behavior, our words, our manner of speech, and our attitudes of heart are always being judged by non-Christians. Unbelievers are drawing conclusions about Christ and about the truth of Christianity from everything we say and do.
Jerram Barrs, The Heart of Evangelism
(HT: Zach Nielsen)
“If we have resisted the missionary dimension of the church’s life, or dismissed it as if it were dispensable, or patronized it reluctantly with a few perfunctory prayers and grudging coins, or become preoccupied with our own narrow-minded, parochial concerns, we need to repent, that is, change our mind and attitude.
Do we profess to believe in God? He’s a missionary God.
Do we say we are committed to Christ? He’s a missionary Christ.
Do we claim to be filled with the Spirit? He’s a missionary Spirit.
Do we delight in belonging to the church? It’s a missionary society.
Do we hope to go heaven when we die? It’s a heaven filled with the fruits of the missionary enterprise.
It is not possible to avoid these things.”
(HT: Trevin Wax)
From the TGC13 Faith at Work Post-Conference:
Keller’s book is Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work.
(HT: Justin Taylor)
“Using audio from Don Carson, this short video challenges us from the Bible how we must be sharing our lives, opening up the Bible and changing generations as we point them to Jesus.”
A healthy church, a true church, is a church on mission; one that follows Jesus as disciples while making disciples of others. A church on mission maintains both an outward and inward orientation with the hope of the gospel and works of grace. We are to reach out, gather in, and worship Jesus together in all of life. When a church loses sight of the mission Christ gave us (to make disciples) it not only ceases to participate in Christ’s ingathering of those he calls to himself, but it also begins to die. A church can only live as she abides in Jesus, and Jesus is definitely on mission. To abide with him we must go with him.
But this sin of “no-mission” will not only kill the church, it will also kill the family. Edmund’s Clowney’s book, The Church, is my favorite single volume on the church. In his chapter on the mission of the church he makes the following point.
What is true of a congregation is true also of a Christian home. If a family fails to seek to gather friends and neighbors to Christ in hospitality and quiet witness, the children of the family will be scattered. We fail to bring up children in the nurture of the Lord if we fail to involve them in our efforts to gather others to the Savior.
- Edmund P. Clowney, The Church
As we are heading into a new year it’s good to do some evaluation of our homes, make some adjustments, repent, and follow the Lord. Perhaps some of us can begin by asking a series of questions.
What is the functional center of our home?
What do we look to as a family for help, confidence, and joy?
Do the members of our household see the mission of the church reflected in our prayers?
Who are we reaching out to as a family with the hope of the gospel?
Who should we be reaching out to as a family with love (the great commandments) and the gospel (the great commission)?
What practices and rhythms should we begin in 2013 to help us become a home that participates in the mission God gave the church?
God has given all of us the ministry of reconciliation, and as witnesses of Jesus we are called by God to testify of him to others through our vocation, recreation, and home. And we shouldn’t wait for 2013. There is time now. There is need now. And it’s Christmas, which means not only are you afforded the natural opportunity to talk to others about Jesus, it’s also a perfect time to practice hospitality. Open your home, friends. You can’t be on mission with the doors closed.
Tim Chester posts 6 simple ways to be missional:
1. Eat with other people
We all eat three meals a day. That’s 21 opportunities for church and mission each week without adding anything new to your schedule. And meals are a powerful expression of welcome and community.
2. Work in public places
Hold meetings, prepare talks, and read in public spaces like cafés, pubs, and parks. It will naturally help you engage with the culture. For example, whose questions do you want to address in your Bible studies, those of professional exegetes or those of the culture?
3. Be a regular
Adopt a local café, pub, park, and shop so you regularly visit and become known as a local. Imagine if everyone in your gospel community did this!
4. Leave the house in the evenings
It’s so easy after a long day on a dark evening to slump in front of the television or surf the Internet. Get out! Visit a friend. Take a cake to a neighbour. Attend a local group. Go to the cinema. Hang out in a café. Go for a walk with a friend. It doesn’t matter where as long as you go with gospel intentionality.
5. Serve your neighbours
Weed a neighbour’s garden. Help someone move. Put up a shelf. Volunteer with a local group. It could be one evening a week or one day a month. Try to do it with other members of your gospel community so it becomes a common project. Then people will see your love for one another and it will be easier to talk about Jesus.
6. Share your passion
What do you enjoy? Find a local group that shares your passion. Be missional and have fun at the same time!
(HT: Rick Ianniello)
I’m dedicating this post to the good people of Bethel Evangelical Church (my church!). We have a great evangelistic opportunity before us this week. With God’s grace, let’s go for it!
Evangelism is counter-cultural. It’s true everywhere on the planet, but perhaps it’s especially so in our increasingly post-Christian Western society. We live in polite culture, for the most part. Talk about religion? You just don’t go there. Talk about how many tornadoes have come through, and how the team is doing, and how the city has new recycling bins. But Jesus Christ, crucified for sinners and risen from the dead? You just don’t go there. So they say.
For the time being, it seems the greatest threat to gospel-telling in such a society is not that we will be hauled before the city council, beaten, and have our property taken away. What we are really dealing with is some awkwardness.
Awkwardness is perhaps the biggest threat to evangelism for far too many of us.
Awkwardness Never Killed Anyone
I’ve done a little research and can confirm to you that there is not one documented case of someone dying, or even been severely injured, by awkwardness. Not one.
But when I read my kids’ Twitter, I see nearly half their tweets starting with “That awkward moment when… .” Awkwardness is catastrophic, and maybe especially so among the younger generation.
Awkwardness! It’s as if we imagine fire and asteroids and dragons. As if people are running through the streets yelling, “Run from the awkwardness, it’s going to get you! You might feel awkward. It would be terrible if you felt awkward!”
But a little awkwardness — or even a lot of it — is such a small price to pay for enjoying the power of God’s Spirit using us to be his witnesses.
Joy in Small Suffering
I write this as no super-evangelist. I’m right there with you, naturally fearful that things might be awkward. I sit on the plane thinking, “If the guy next to me doesn’t like my talking about Jesus, it’s going to be awkward.” Oh, no, I’ll have a hard life to deal with sitting next to this guy for two whole hours being awkward.
For the Christian, there is a joy and a privilege to suffer for Jesus, even a tiny little bit. Most of us can agree that when we do step out in faith, the awkwardness really wasn’t that bad in retrospect. Awkwardness seems so horrible when it’s in front of us. But it’s not nearly as bad behind us. All my limbs are together, I’m okay, it’s really not that bad.
You Are Involved
The aim here is not to press any kind of guilt on you. But I think when we look at this issue of gospel witness, we have a tendency to do what they do in big cities when somebody is laying on the ground. Everyone walks past the victim like they didn’t notice anything. Then the cops come around the corner and wonder why nobody responded. It was because nobody wanted to get involved.
Well, if you are a born-again believer, you are involved — really, really involved. The Holy Spirit lives in your heart. You cannot be more involved. You’re in the middle of it. It’s happening right there in you. You are the issue, you are the scene of the crime. You’re involved. We cannot dance out of the way.
Why So Difficult?
Why would God make something that we long to do so difficult to do?
For some Christians, it is isn’t that difficult to evangelize. In fact, these tend to be confused as to why so few Christians are involved in ongoing, bold evangelism. If this is you, I want you to tell you, we praise God for your boldness. And you should know, you are a bit weird. For you, awkwardness is just an abstract concept. For the rest of us, awkwardness is like plague to be avoided at all costs. But this is an example of the different parts in the body of Christ making their specific contribution to God’s glory and the advance of his kingdom. So why is something so important and integral to the Christian life so difficult for so many?
Here’s one answer: God gives most of us this awareness of awkwardness so that we would never, not for a second, trust in or magnify ourselves and drift away from the magnificence of the gospel. This awareness in evangelism makes the gospel tangible. It means I need the gospel right now myself. Not only does my hearer need Jesus at this moment, but so do I!
Jesus died for disciples who do a poor job of witnessing. He died for those of who have all too often failed to commend him because we feared it might get awkward. But he also died to give us the grace to press through the awkwardness to testify to him.
May God give us the grace to rebound from our many failures, and grace not to fold in the face of awkwardness in telling others the most important news in the world.
Duane Litfin, writing in Christianity Today:
“Some today will claim that there is no true evangelism without “embodied action.” In fact, according to one critic, “Unless [Christ's] disciples are following the Great Commandment, it is fruitless to engage in the Great Commission.” According to this view, the gospel is without its own potency. Its “fruitfulness” depends upon us. But this is not the testimony of the New Testament.
According to Paul—whose itinerant ministry met few of the “embodied action” criteria—the power of the gospel does not reside in us; it resides in the Spirit’s application of the message itself. . . .
Few would deny that the holistic mission of the church is the best possible platform for our verbal witness, and that our jaded generation will be more inclined to give us a hearing if we are living it out. (Indeed, the longest section of my new book, Word versus Deed, is devoted to the crucial role of our deeds.)
But this does not permit us to hold the gospel hostage to our shortcomings.
When has the church been all it should be?
When, short of glory, will the church ever be all that God wills for it?
The church has been messy from the beginning, falling far short of living out the Great Commandment. Yet despite our failures, the gospel itself remains marvelously potent, the very “power of God unto salvation” to those who believe.
The gospel’s inherent power does not fluctuate with the strengths or weaknesses of its messengers.
This truth is humbling, but also immensely liberating. In the end, my inability to answer objections, my lack of training or experience, even failures in my own faithfulness in living it out do not nullify the gospel’s power. Its potency is due to the working of God’s Spirit.
Even when we are at our best, the gospel is powerful in spite of us, not because of us. Thanks be to God.”
You can read the whole thing here. This is adapted from his book, Word Versus Deed: Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance (Crossway, 2012).
(HT: Justin Taylor)
By Jake Belder:
It is common to hear Christians talk about “living in the light of eternity.” Not too long ago, there was a popular video going around in which Francis Chan talked about this very thing, using a long rope as an illustration. The Bible, of course, speaks of this too—Paul says that “we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For…what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). And the glorious vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 gives us great hope for an eternal life in the new creation.
While such a perspective is clearly biblical, it needs to be understood properly. When people begin to think in these categories, a common temptation is to view life as split into two areas: spiritual things that matter and that have eternal significance, and everything else, which does not. This perspective is not true to Scripture, and doesn’t honour the confession that most Christians—despite the glaring inconsistency—are eager to make: that Christ is Lord over all.
What then does it mean to live in the light of eternity? It begins with recognising that the “all” in the statement above refers to the whole of created reality. This is where the root of the problem often lies, for many Christians have a narrow view of creation that does not go beyond the physical stuff that we can see and touch. But creation includes the whole of our creaturely existence, the norms and laws and structures that God has woven into the fabric of reality that guide and give shape to our life on this earth.
If all we wanted to say is that everything matters, we could stop here. But we need to go farther. The distorting effects of sin have touched every part of creation. This reality is what often gives rise to the dichotomy many operate with, for the goodness of the created reality is so marred by sin that it can be hard to even see it anymore. Our response is to give up on what we perceive to be temporal things—large swathes of our life within culture—and to go into preservation mode, concerning ourselves with our personal piety and with saving the souls of others.
But God doesn’t abandon any part of his creation. As that great line in “Joy to the World” goes, the redemption that comes through Christ extends as “far as the curse is found.” God is committed to redeeming every single part of his creation from sin.
Just as God is committed to his creation, so we should be. Nothing is so distorted by sin that it is unredeemable. Our call in culture is to bear witness to the redemption of Christ in every area of our creaturely lives. Nothing that we do is insignificant. Work, play, art, music, politics, journalism—these are all shaped by God’s creative design. It is true that Satan wants control over all of them; indeed, he desires control over the totality of creation. As servants of Christ, we must respond by demonstrating what all of life looks like under the rule of Christ and resolutely refuse to allow Satan to have mastery over anything good that God has made.
Living in the light of eternity means actively seeking to demonstrate Christ’s rule over all of life, offering the world around us a foretaste of “what is unseen” – that glorious future when the whole of creation is redeemed and everything finds its fulfilment and flourishing under the consummated rule of the true King.
“If we avoid speaking of God’s wrath, of God’s justice, of the coming day of divine judgment, of Jesus’ death as an atoning sacrifice for us, we are not changing the form of the missionary presentation of the gospel but its content. The foundational centrality of “Christ crucified” is of critical importance for the existence of the local church. In mission and evangelism the search for a presentation of the gospel that will convince listeners is misguided if the fact of Jesus’ death on the cross and the significance of this death are not central to that message.
The cross has been and always will be regarded as a religious scandal and as intellectual nonsense. The search for a message that is more easily comprehensible must never attempt to eliminate the provocative nature of the news of Jesus the messianic Son of God who came to die so that sinners can be forgiven by God who hates sin and judges sinners on the Day of Judgment. Paul knows that it is only the power of God, the “proof” of God’s Spirit working in people, that convinces unbelievers of the truth of the news of Jesus and that leads them to faith in Jesus the Messiah and Saviour.”
(Paul the Missionary, 399-400)
(HT: Kevin DeYoung)
Lee Irons critiques Tim Keller’s ‘Evangelistic Worship’:
Some of you may be aware that there is this thing called “the missional church” or “the missional movement” or just “missional.” It is a fundamental shift in thinking in which ecclesiology is subordinated to missiology. The church exists exclusively as a means for the accomplishment of the so-called missio Dei. Therefore, everything the church does should be missional and should engage the culture for the sake of winning people to Christ. Of course, if “everything” the church does ought to be missional, then this will logically impact corporate worship. When the church gathers for corporate worship on the Lord’s Day, what is occurring in that meeting and who is being addressed? The missional movement says that worship ought to be evangelistic and that the service should not only edify the saints but also address unbelievers. I have written a paper in which I critique this view. I have chosen to interact with a paper by Tim Keller titled “Evangelistic Worship.” I argue exegetically that worship is not evangelistic but covenantal. It is a meeting of the triune God with his covenant people. Unbelievers may be present and God may even use the service to convert them (1 Cor 14:23-25), but unbelievers as outsiders to the covenant should not be addressed in worship. Evangelistic meetings, Bible studies, and other meetings for the purpose of apologetic engagement are valuable, but worship is not an evangelistic meeting. Read the paper here: A Critique of Tim Keller’s “Evangelistic Worship”
(HT: James Grant)
Faithful presence is a helpful corrective to mistaken Christian approaches to culture. But it’s not enough. While we’re faithfully present, we must faithfully fulfill the Great Commission by proclaiming the gospel. That’s what Colin Hansen talked about with Chris Castaldo, director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal at the Billy Graham Center of Wheaton College.
David Platt, speaking at Verge12:
1. The Great Commission can be accomplished and will be completed.
2. Pastors and church leaders are moblizers and equippers for people in the local church.
1. A God-centered God. We must give the people we lead a glimpse of the God-centered God who exalts himself.
2. A word-saturated ministry. We give them a glimpse of the glory of God by giving them the Word of God. It’s the only thing that will drive them into mission and then sustain them. Biblical theology drives urgent missiology.
3. A life-changing gospel. Maybe one of the reasons so many in the church aren’t making disciples of all the nations is that they aren’t really disciples in the first place. Should it not concern us that the Bible never offers a “sinner’s prayer” and never talks about “accepting Jesus into our heart.” We have modern evangelism built on sinking sand that runs the risk of ruining souls. We must be very careful about assuring people they are Christians when they have not responded to the gospel. It’s damning to drain the lifeblood of Christianity and replace it with Kool-Aid. They need to see the greatness of God—he is a loving father who may save us, but he is also a wrathful God who may damn us. In the original Greek, “dead in your trespasses and sins” means “dead.” We have developed many methods of ministry that require little or no help from the Spirit of God. One of the greatest hindrances to the advancement of the gospel is the attempt of the church of God to do the work of God apart from the power of the Spirit of God.
4. A Spirit-empowered church. We have created a church culture that does not depend on the Spirit. We need to be desperate for the Spirit of God.
5. A Christ-driven strategy. Go and make disciples of all the nations.
6. A peoples-focused goal. Panta ta ethne (ethno-linguistic people groups, not socio-political nation-states). The Great Commission is not a general command to make disciples among as many people as possible, but to make disciples among all the people groups. “Unreached” people is not the same as “lost” people. The difference is access. If we are not mobilizing our people to go to unreached peoples, we are not being obedient to the Great Commission. Our obedience is incomplete. Ladd: Christ has not yet returned, therefore the task is not yet done. We are not completely missional if we are not engaged in reaching unreached peoples.
7. A multifaceted approach. Let’s not take both-and’s and turn them into either-or’s. Local and global. Spiritual and physical. Pray and go. Short-term and long-term.
Why don’t we just let the locals do it? That’s the point! With the unreached there are no locals!
8. A death-defying commitment. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matt. 24:9). It will be costly. Satan is—in a sense—fine with us spending all our time with people around us while ignoring the unreached. When we engage the unreached, we will be met with the full force of hell. Are we willing to pay the price? Are we willing to redesign church budget and family budgets? Are we willing to let go of programs and preferences? Are we willing to lead and shepherd people, telling them, “This may cost you everything.” At the same time, we must not forget the reward. There is coming a day when the trumpet will sound, Christ will return to receive the reward he is due. And all the peoples of the earth will be represented around the throne, crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God!” Those people will not seeing letting go of the things of this world as “sacrifice.” He is worth it.
(HT: Justin Taylor)
From John Piper:
I have in mind at least five things—five ways to make God known through your secular job and all of them are important. When one of them is missing, the witness to the truth of Christ suffers.
1. The excellence of the products or services you render in your job shows the excellence and greatness of God.
2. The standards of integrity you follow at your job show the integrity and holiness of God.
3. The love you show to people in your job shows the love of God.
4. The stewardship of the money you make from your job shows the value of God compared to other things.
5. The verbal testimony you give to the reality of Christ shows the doorway to all these things in your life and their possibility in the lives of others.
“Calvin so believed in the importance of the everyday activities of Christian life and mission that he had a strange but telling practice in Geneva. He was eager to see Jesus’ church gathered on Sundays, but he was not happy for his flock to retreat from everyday life and hide within the walls of the church during the week. So to prod his congregants to be fully engaged in their city of Geneva — in their families, in their jobs, with their neighbors and coworkers — he locked the church doors during the week. It must have been hard not to get the point. He knew the place of God’s people — gathered together to worship on Sunday, but during the week not hidden away behind thick walls of separation, but on mission together in God’s world, laboring to bring the gospel to metro Geneva in their words and actions, in all their roles and relationships.”
– David Mathis, in the “Introduction” to Mathis and John Piper’sWith Calvin in the Theater of God (p. 23)
(HT: Jared Wilson)
Excerpts from an interview with Michael Horton on his new book, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples:
By “incarnational” a lot of people mean that, like Jesus, we should identify with our neighbors in humility, rather than stand aloof. But it often is attended today by a lot of loose language about “doing the gospel” and “being the gospel,” of our work of partnering with God in the redemption and reconciliation of the world, and so forth—“Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words,” as the oft-quoted saying attributed to Francis of Assisi goes. The problem is that this confuses us with Jesus, the redeemed with the Redeemer, the ambassadors with the King. In Philippians 2, we are called to imitate the humility of Christ, revealed in his descent from glory in order to save the lost. However, everything else in that passage highlights the ways in which we cannot imitate Christ. We did not share equally with the Father and the Holy Spirit in deity. We did not become incarnate. Our “humiliation” is not for the redemption of others, but for our witness to the name of Christ. So the gospel is something that can only be proclaimed, because it’s about someone else—what he has already accomplished—and that makes it Good News. Like John the Baptist, we point away from ourselves to “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). Although we are called to imitate his suffering humility, Christ’s incarnation itself is not a model for us to imitate, but a wonderful announcement for us to bring to the world. The gospel is not about me or us; it’s about the Triune God and what he has accomplished for us in Jesus Christ.
You regularly raise the concern that many are confusing Christ’s work with our work. Can you briefly explain where the confusion lies?
This concern follows from the previous points. The Reformers made the startling point, so evident in the Scriptures, that in relation to God we are only receivers. All good gifts come down from the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit. So then where do our good works go? God doesn’t need them. I don’t need them, because Christ is my righteousness. The only place for our good works to go, then, is out to our neighbors in love. They need us to bring them the gospel. They also need us to help them fix their roof, rebuild after an earthquake, watch their children while they take a sick child to the hospital, and so forth. Through the many works that Christians execute in their daily lives, God loves and serves the world in common grace. Through our witness to the gospel, God loves and serves these neighbors with saving grace. But if we eclipse God’s service, which we receivesupremely in the public ministry of Word and sacrament, into an emphasis on our service, then the salt loses its savor. We may be really, really active in the world, but are we Christian in that activity? Scripture gives us commands as well as promises; tasks to perform as well as Good News to embrace. However, if we take it for granted that everybody already “gets” God’s saving grace in Christ (as though it were merely a matter of assenting to a series of doctrines and then moving on to the real stuff of Christian discipleship), we’re doing things backwards. Works flow from faith and faith feeds daily on the gospel.
From The Gospel Coalition:
According to the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28, all human beings made in God’s image have the privilege and responsibility of caring for the earth. It is good to provide for our families and work with integrity. The local church, however, has a different calling. Likewise, not everything Scripture commands Christians to do applies in the same way to the church at large.
In this video, young pastors Kevin DeYoung, Greg Gilbert, and Ryan Kelly seek clarity for the missional buzzword as they consider the particular calling God has given the local church. Jesus commissioned the apostles to make disciples and proclaim the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20). So is that the extent of the church’s calling today? Or should the church branch out into other good ventures as part of its mission?
Writes Eckhard J. Schnabel in his chef-d’œuvre, Early Christian Mission, Volume 2: Paul and the Early Church (IVP, 2004), pages 1574-1575:
“I submit that the use of the term ‘incarnational’ is not very helpful to describe the task of authentic Christian missionary work. The event of the coming of Jesus into the world is unique, unrepeatable and incomparable, making it preferable to use other terminology to express the attitudes and behavior that Paul describes in 1 Cor 9:19-23. The Johannine missionary commission in Jn 20:21 does not demand an ‘incarnation’ of Jesus’ disciples but rather their obedience, unconditional commitment and robust activity in the service of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is precisely John who describes the mission of Jesus as unique: Jesus is the ‘only’ Son (Jn 1:14, 18; 3:14, 18), he is preexistent (Jn 1:1, 14), his relationship to the Father is unparalleled (Jn 1:14, 18). For John, it is not the manner of Jesus’ coming into the world, the Word becoming flesh, the incarnation, that is a ‘model’ for believers; rather, it is the nature of Jesus’ relationship to the Father who sent him into the world, which is one of obedience to and dependence upon the Father. … The terms ‘contextualization’ or ‘inculturation’ certainly are more helpful.”
(HT: Tony Reinke)