evangelism


My twin brother, Mark, has always been a huge encouragement to me in my faith.  As a missionary in Japan, Mark understands what it means to do hard things in a hard place.  We often talk about the challenges of ministry and how we want to make a difference for the kingdom.  I love his challenge here:

Will you be faithful to your call, even when it seems fruitless?  Are you committed to Jesus and His glory in your ministry, and not towards numbers?  God is in charge of the results as long as we are simply obedient.

I recall my good friend and mentor as a college student, Jim Luebe, saying, “I just want to be a faithful laborer over time.”

That is my goal as well.

  • Read his entire post here

From creation to revelation we see that God is on mission.  His mission is to restore a broken humanity into a new community–a community that ultimately reflects the relationship he has with himself in the Trinity.   Tim Chester says,

In the church we are striving with the Spirit’s help to express the plurality and unity of God; to be the one and the many without comprimising either.

We are called as a community on earth to reflect the relationship God has with himself eternally.  We are a preview of heaven; and yet our community is not yet completed.  We are on a mission to bring others into this community, and the way we do that is through our common relationship and partnership in the gospel.

Relationship

When we gave our lives to Jesus we were immediately brought into the family of God.  We have one Father who unites us together as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Within the framework of this family we are called to do life together.  We are called to live out the many “one anothers” of Scripture because of our common relationship in Christ.  This relationship is a picture of the relationship God has within the Trinity.

Partnership

When we gave our lives to Jesus, we were immediately joined to Jesus and to each other.  Just like a body we are connected to each other.  Romans 12::5 says, “In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  The purpose of this partnership is to first build up the body in love (Eph. 4:16) and then promote the gospel to the world (Mt. 5:16).  In so doing, we will reflect the beauty, the unity and diversity of the Trinity.

What does this look like practically?

It means that we stop thinking of our community as merely a horizantal, social activity.  Rather we should start thinking of our community as a vertical, reflection of the Trinity.  We are a living drama of the divine community!  That means that when we’re worshiping together, serving together, or even hanging out together, we are imaging forth the relational nature of God’s being.   We are giving the world a snapshot of heaven–indeed, a snapshot of our heavenly King.  What a joy it should be for us to live under the good rule and reign of King Jesus.  And this joy and love should be seen in our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.  We must make the invisible Trinity visible through our community!

A Daunting Task?

Becoming a community who reflects the love of the Trinity seems like a daunting task for the church today.  It’s very similar to a husband and wife being told that their marriage is a living picture of Christ’s relationship with the church.  Daunting, indeed!  It should bring me to my knees in prayer … all the while remembering Jesus’ prayer for the church in John 17:21.

that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  

  • Read Tim Chester’s great article, “The Trinity and Humanity”
  • Read Total Church, by Chester and Timmis

God’s work of change has relationships both as the necessary means and a wonderful goal. Humble community is not the icing on the cake of Christianity. In a real way, it is the cake. These relationships of love are a means of personal growth, a mark of God’s people being purified, and a clear argument to the world for the truth of the gospel.   ~ Timothy Lane & Paul Tripp, How People Change

Jonathan Dodson:

By 2000, forty million American white-collar employees were using the cubicle. What began as a customizable work environment eventually turned into an urban dungeon. Cutting us off from contact with the real world, the cubicle is scorned for suffocating productivity and community. Attempts to correct these individualistic work environments, such as co-working or collaborative workspace, have met with little to moderate success. Does work have to be so isolating?  (Read the rest here)

We’re naturally attracted to people who are like us.  It’s just easier to live in a neighborhood populated with people like us who look like us and shop like us.  The same is true when it comes to church life.  We’re drawn to people who are the same age, at the same place in life, with our same tastes and preferences.  We even structure our Sunday school classes and small groups this way so that we’re always associating with people like us.  Consequently, we’re a homogenous bunch of people who call ourselves the body of Christ but hardly represent the unity and diversity that makes us distinctively Christian. 

Here are some thoughts about what we can do.  First, we must not buy in (pun intended) to the consumer mindset that views the church as a place tailor-made to our personal preferences.  When this happens we will inevitably market different ministries to attract certain people so that they are segmented together in consumer-like clusters.  This is unhealthy and more importantly, unbiblical.  It is unhealthy because we often learn the most from those who are different than us.  We learn how to love those who are hard to love, and we learn to listen to those who have walked the narrow road longer than we have. 

For example, about a year ago my wife and I formed a small group of married couples who met together in our home twice a month.  We intentionally chose couples at different stages of life.  One couple was just beginning their marriage while another had been married for 20+ years.  We all learned a lot from each other and each couple brought valuable insight to the group.  Am I saying there is never a place for same age, same gender, same “walk of life” kinds of groups?  No.  I’m just challenging the way we do church and why we assume it should be done that way. 

When the church becomes consumer oriented and thus segmented in its ministry, it is not only unhealthy but also unbiblical.  Jesus’ prayer in John 17  and Paul’s many exhortations make this clear.  No matter what society says regarding tribe, class, or gender, the church is to be united in Christ.  Consider Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is no small thing.  In fact, when the church lives in true unity it is a miracle.  Charles Drew, author of  A Journey Worth Taking, says,

The church is supposed to be a sociological miracle–a demonstration that Jesus has died and risen to create a new humanity composed of all sorts of people.

The church is a sociological miracle, a new humanity.  This is what our watching world needs to see.  A group of people who are not naturally compatible with one another but nevertheless united and filled with genuine love for one another.  And that brings us to the final thing we can do to become what we are as the body of Christ, and that is simply this: strive to be a safe and honest community united in Christ. 

In all our interactions, in all our ministries, we must leave pride at the door and open our hearts up to others.  People need to see that Christianity is not a commodity to consume but a community to be a part of–a community that welcomes all people into its fold–rich, poor, black, white, home-school, public school, you name it.  And the focus of this community is on a Person who came for all kinds of people and died for all kinds of people, namely Christ. 

Imagine what would happen if the body of Christ really lived like Christ.  We would be, like Jesus said, a city on a hill that could not be hidden.  A city, a community, a body so attractive to this world that all kinds of people from all walks of life would want to be a part.  They would want to share in this community and do life together not because of what we have in common here on earth (race, gender, age, tastes and preferences) but what we have in common here in Christ.  For Christ himself came for this very reason.  He came to “reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross” (Eph. 2:16) so that we might be united forever as redeemed people from “every tongue tribe and nation” (Rev. 5:9).  May it be Lord … may it be .. on earth as it is in heaven.

Too often evangelism is seen as an individual burden instead of a community project.  No one has shown me this truth more clearly than John Dickson.  He is the author of the book, Promoting the Gospel, and speaker at our recent PTG Pastor’s Conference.  Below is the audio titles of his messages with a brief summary of each.  If you long for your church to be a missional community, you would do well to listen to these messages.

One for the Many – Main point: The mission equation of the Bible is “There is one Lord, to whom all people belong and owe their allegiance, and so the people of the Lord must promote this reality everywhere.”  Proclaiming Christ is a reality mission not just a rescue mission.

Silently Seeking the Lost – probably the message I’d recommend the most … good introduction to our self consciousness in reaching out and that there’s a wide range of gospel promoting activities – he hits on prayer and giving here.

The Beautiful Life – this one is probably second … speaking of the unpredictable power of the Christian life lived as a community. You can tell he’s a historian with all his references to the early church and beyond.

Three Dimensions of Evangelism – Some to be evangelists, all to declare his praises, each to give an answer.

The audio itself is not that great … but John’s teaching is excellent and refreshing. I’d love to hear your thoughts. His book, Promoting the Gospel, really influenced me.

Jonathan Dodson has some wise counsel in approaching this issue as it relates to the recent cover/article in Newsweek.

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