Monday, July 27, 2015

Evangelism vs. Missionary Work

Hebrews 1:1-2
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (NIV)
John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)

Recently I posted the following on Facebook:

For years American Christians have viewed sharing the gospel in America as "evangelism" and in the rest of the world as "missionary work." What we have to wrap our heads around is that NOW it's ALL "missionary work"--even in America.

Several people commented that they thought the two are the same. So I said I would elaborate in a blog post. So here goes.

Our two scriptures above shed some light on the matter. The first verse of Hebrews said that God spoke through the prophets from time to time. That’s how most people do evangelism: from time to time. Let me state up front that my next example is to be explanatory, not critical.

Some Christians, as a part of their ministry, leave their nice, comfortable homes once a week and go to minister to people in an inner-city slum area. After the ministry they go back to their nice, comfortable homes. Then next week they repeat the process. This is evangelism.

Verse two of Hebrews says that in “these last days” (as an aside, note that eschatological terminology) He spoke through His Son. To accomplish this Jesus came to earth and “made His dwelling among us” (or as John 1:14 is rendered in The Message, “the Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood”).

It was through the incarnation that Jesus spoke to us. He came and dwelled among us. This is missionary work—not a weekly visit but full-time “doing life” with the people we are trying to reach. It is very expensive because it costs you everything. However, Jesus requires nothing less.

Jerome and Shanna Crawford are missionaries to Sierra Leone, West Africa. Shanna had this to say about missionary work: “I believe a missionary leaves his friends and family to share the gospel in a place that is not his home.” That’s it!

But you don’t have to leave the United States to do this. Suppose that instead of leaving your comfortable home for a weekly visit to the slums you actually move into the slums and live among the people you want to reach. As radical as that may sound, it is far less than what your Savior did.

Paul said,

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NIV)

Have you ever noticed that the church in Antioch was different from Jerusalem, the Galatian churches from Antioch, and the Ephesian church from the Galatian churches? The reason is that they were missional-incarnational churches. Paul visited these latter places (missional) and planted the seed of the gospel within the local culture (incarnational). The church that resulted contained both the DNA of the gospel as well as the DNA of the culture, just as a child carries DNA from both parents.

Paul visited each city, studied the culture, and then approached people with the gospel in a way that would be meaningful to them. A clear example was in Athens, Greece (Acts 17:16-34). Paul saw all the gods for whom they had altars including one to “The Unknown God.” He saw that they enjoyed philosophical discussions so he went to the place where this took place. Then he shared with them in a culturally relevant way about the God who was the Lord of all.

To reach even America with the gospel we need to go beyond building buildings and inviting people to come. Many today are open to Jesus but want to have nothing to do with the church—whether through ignorance or past experience. We need to go to them and then “show and tell” the gospel in a way that they can and will receive.

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Submission versus Obedience

There’s a lot of controversy over these two concepts in the Christian world. Does submission require obedience? Or is it possible to submit without obeying? Consider this event recorded in Acts:

Acts 5:27-42
27 Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood."
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead — whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.
38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (NIV)

Here we see both submission and yet disobedience to the Sanhedrin. They submitted by not resisting the punishment for their disobedience. It is possible to both submit to authorities and yet disobey them. The disobedience should be for the right reason, however. Consider this:

1 Peter 2:20-21
20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (NIV)

This was the way of the disciples. A modern day example was Martin Luther King, Jr.