The plan of God as it unfolds in the book of Acts and into the epistles is to have churches established and built-up. This is God’s agenda for this age. In one sense the church is His mission plan for this age. Churches are established and out of those churches other churches are established.
I have been pondering on this issue particularly as regards to the sending out of missionaries to other pasts of the world. The goal should always be for those sent out either to link with churches which are already in situ in the location where they go to, or if it is a completely spiritually barren area to establish new churches.
There is something wrong for people to be just loan rangers or loan groups operating independent of churches.
This also raises issues more close to home. To engage in evangelism is absolutely vital and we give thanks to the Lord for all mission agencies who are labouring for the Lord. But these should always be operating in connection with local churches.
The commission of our Lord is to go and make disciples. Disciples are formed in the context of a local church. A convert can be any where, but a disciple should always be in a church. Evangelism should always be about recruiting disciples.
Let me make it clear that I am a lover of Muslims. I passionately love Muslims I pray for Muslims. I have Muslims, I would consider as friends. I am a total muslimphile; that means I am a lover of Muslims. So as Eid is celebrated in the UK today I would want to declare that.
However, I have to acknowledge and declare that I am also an Islamophobe. I was pondering upon this in respect of the slogan on the man’s T-shirt next to Jordan Peterson here. I am, dare I say, a hater of Islam. And I am a hater of Islam because I am a lover of Muslims. I love Muslims so much that I don’t want them to follow a false religious system.
I would go further and say that any real Christian must be an Islamphobe. To be otherwise is a complete contradiction and denial of our faith. This is because the faith of God revealed in Christ is a faith about how we can reach God through Jesus Christ and Him alone. He, Himself, said to Thomas “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).
If we say that Islam or Mohammed is an acceptable way to God then we are declaring Jesus Christ to be a liar and should reject Him as a fraud. If, as is the case, Jesus Christ is true and the only way to God we should long that all Muslims, and all other followers of any religion, come to faith in Jesus Christ and be a follower of Him.
This Jesus is the one who died on the cross and rose again to bring salvation to all who believe. We believe that there is salvation in no other. We passionately want all, including Muslims, to come to faith in this Lord. We want them to turn from their false gods like the Thessalonian Christians did. It is said of them that they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:9b-10).
I love Muslims so much that I want them to turn from their religion and escape the wrath to come. I want them to become followers of Jesus Christ the Lord who died to cleanse and lives to save them.
Here is a report lasting about 25 mins on God’s work in a church in Pozzuoli in southern Italy. Alec Catchpole is a missionary there. He is originally from London.
In Paul’s address to Agrippa in Acts 26, Paul five times addresses him as “King Agrippa” (see verses 2, 7, 13, 19 and 27). This reminds me of how we should be respectful of the people we are speaking to when we are bearing witness. The person you are speaking to should be aware that you are respectful and honorable towards them. The appropriate use of titles gives substance to this.
I always think it is good to use the terms “sir” and “madam” when offering our leaflets to people on the streets or meeting people on the door. I think it it indicates something of that respect for the person.
Behind all this are two desires:
- To make the person know that you value them for who they are.
- You do not want to do anything that would get in the way of your bringing them to Christ. You don’t want the wrong way of addressing someone to get in the way.
It is always an interesting experience to be evangelized by someone who does not know you. Yesterday I was getting on the bus and saw a lady at the back with some large display boards speaking about the love of God and the blessings available from God. Given that the seats on the bus were mainly taken I deemed it appropriate to go and sit on a seat near her. I asked her a question about her boards and the contents thereof. She responded to this. Here are some thoughts on what ensued:
- For the time we talked, which was about 10 minutes, she did not ask me anything about myself.
- She talked at me for that time. I did not feel she engaged with me at all.
- I felt she just wanted to dump information on me and not win me to her message and for her Lord.
- She got off the bus before me so she know what the maximum time she would have. There was no sense of establishing where I was at in spiritual terms. There was no sense of helping me forward in my understanding.
- I was just left with a brain-dump upon me which I would have to sift for myself.
- What she said was a bit of a hotch-potch. Some stuff was really good: other stuff was at best confused.
- I did not feel she was interested in me or my spiritual welfare even though she spoke about hell.
What did I learn:
- Be interested in the person you are speaking to.
- Establish where they are at spiritually.
- Listen to them.
- Don’t just dump information, even though that information may be correct and wholesome.
- Be clear on the basics of the gospel.
- Think about how long you are likely to have speaking with the person. For some it may be a minute; for some it may be a lifetime. Your approach will differ accordingly.
Here is the BBC report on the death on November 17th (last week) of the American missionary, John Allen Chau. His willingness to give up all, even life itself, so that others might know the love of God in Christ Jesus is surely the love of God in demonstration. It is must be truly Christ-like self-sacrificial love.
It is reminiscent of the desire of the five American missionaries to reach the Auca Indians back in the 1950’s (see here for basic details).
I am challenged and effected as to how much my life reflects this self-denying love. Am I constrained / compelled by the love of Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:14). I preached on that at our church back in September the audio is here. But how much am I living the message I preached? And now we have this portrayal before us in the life of Mr Chau. In all his weakness, he was willing to risk his life to teh end taht others might have life.
In his letters shortly before his death he mentions about who will step up to take his place if he is taken. Sobering words indeed.
So how seriously do we take the great commission to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19a)? How much am I longing to see people gathered around the throne of God praising God in their own language?
One of the things that puts Christians off from engaging with others about that which relates the gospel of our Saviour, is the feeling that they might not be able to respond appropriately to an issue that is raised or a question asked. This applies in seeking to speak with both Christians and non-Christians.
I want to assert here that you don’t need to know all the answers to any question raised. What is most important with many people is that you are willing to speak with them. What happens when you meet with people to talk is:
- Through talking they very often are helped to resolve their own issues.
- The fact that you love them enough to give them your time can be a powerful help to the person.
- If there are issues that arise that you don’t know how to respond to then you can say to the person that you will go away and consider it.
- When you have prayed before speaking with someone, it very often happens that you are given the right word at the right time for the situation.
So please in a godly and spiritual way we need to be getting involved to speak with one another in our churches and with people outside. Our distancing ourselves from others is not good.