Bible Summary By Topic
· The Elements of the Gospel are as follows:-
i) God made mankind to rule over the earth under His e)cousia and in intimate friendship with Him. He gave mankind the opportunity to show their obedience and desire to continue unbroken friendship with Him by placing one tree in the Paradise in which they lived, the fruit of which they were forbidden to eat on pain of death.
ii) Tempted by Satan, Adam & Eve lusted after knowledge and equality with God, and they ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree. The moment sin came into the world, so too did death and destruction. Adam & Eve moved out of the Kingdom of God and under the dominion of the kingdom of darkness, the rule of Satan. Satan gained e)cousia over the earth and everything in it. God cursed the earth and death, sickness and decay pervaded it.
iii) Every human being is born in sin (E2:2), since we all sinned with our ancestor Adam when he sinned. Humans do not become sinners by sinning, we sin because they are sinners. All of us are born as citizens of the kingdom of darkness and under the rule of Satan with his harsh weapons of subjugation, sin and death. We need do nothing more to die and go to Hell than simply maintain our current standing. Guilt, separation from God and Hell are our default position.
iv) Furthermore, there is nothing that we can do to move out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of God (Jer 2:22, Jer 2:22,Is 43:11 & Acts 4:12). We are rightfully subjects of Satan’s kingdom, and he has a just e)cousia over us. Our sin in Adam, and the whole host of sins which stem from that initial sin, make us utterly guilty before God, and have so sullied our actions that even our very best actions are not good enough to gain any favour in God’s sight (Is 64:6). No amount of reform can save us. We are dead in our sins – cut off from God and filled with hatred towards him because everything within us hates holiness and loves wickedness. Our emotions and wills are so sullied by sin that not a single human being would choose the Kingdom of God now even if we had the opportunity. We are slaves to Satan, taken captive to do his will (2Ti2:26ctrLk5:10), without any future hope of our own except for eternal punishment in Hell (Jude 7&13,2Pet 2:4, Rev 14:10-11,20:10&15,Is 66:24). Being in Satan’s kingdom means pollution in sin, partition cut off from God, under the power of sin, and receiving the penalty of sin.
v) Wonderfully, God still loves us in spite of our sin. Because he knew that our captivity to Satan in the kingdom of darkness was legitimate, and that we could not escape his kingdom through any amount of religion or reform, He himself worked deliverance for the human race. He had all the power He needed simply to capture us from the kingdom of darkness by force, but He is just and was not willing to compromise His justice by ignoring Satan’s rightful e)cousia over us. He redeemed us by paying an enormous price to His own justice in order to save us in His love without compromising His justice (1Ti2:6,R3:24). Eph 1:17&Col 1:14 both say that redemption is the same as forgiveness of sins.
vi) God is three-in-one – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father sent His Son into the world as a man, born of a woman, but conceived by the Holy Spirit rather than a man, come in order to destroy the works of the devil (1Jn3:8). Jesus was therefore 100% human and 100% God at the same time. Since he was a human he was qualified to rescue the human race, and since he was God he was able to rescue the human race. Jesus became the new Adam. He never sinned even once. He followed his Father’s will 100% despite the fierce attempts of Satan to tempt or ensnare him. Having kept the Law of Righteousness to the letter, Jesus then allowed himself to be crucified by the chief priests of the Jewish people, and therefore he became the innocent sacrifice offered by the priests on behalf of every single human being who ever lived, BC or AD (2Pe2:1).
vii) Jesus died and was buried in a tomb for 2-3 days. During this time it looked as though Satan had won – he had not only won e)cousia over mankind and the whole earth, but he had even managed to kill the very Son of God! But on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. He put death to death by throwing off its power, and he appeared to 100s of people across a period of 40 days before he ascended to Heaven to prove what he had done. Our enemy was Sin and its power was the Law and its sting Death. Jesus fulfilled the Law for us and died our Death for us, dealing therefore with Sin’s hold over us (1C15:54-55). Ascended to Heaven, Jesus was then given authority over everything in the universe and he is the undisputed sovereign of the kosmoj, submitted only to the Father.
viii) Jesus’ death and resurrection offer the only way of salvation for mankind. There is no exit from the kingdom of darkness except by death, and all those who die in the kingdom of darkness will be thrown into Hell. But all those who look to the cross of Jesus and believe that he is the once-for-all sacrifice given by God to save us, God counts as if they are united with Christ in his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God in Heaven. This means salvation since we have already been punished for our sins in Jesus and are therefore counted 100% justified in him. It also means far more than salvation because now we are in Jesus on the throne of Heaven and share in every single blessing which is his. This includes justification (ie not just not receiving the penalty for our guilt but being positively declared legally righteous), reconciliation with God in intimate relationship (Heb 4:14&16, Heb 6:19-20), healing (1Pe2:24, Mt8:17), ruling over all creation, eternal life in Heaven (Jn3:16), baptism in the Holy Spirit (Jn 7:39), the xarismata gifts (R5:15-16), the power of the age to come (H6:4-5), sanctification through freedom from sin’s mastery (A26:18, Rom 6:1-23,1Jn1:9), wisdom (1C1:30&H6:4-5), the Messianic promises of the OT (2C6:2), glorification (R5:1-4), e)cousia over Satan (Rev 12:11), ability to pray/worship (Rev 3:7+Is 22:22&39:2), ministry fruitfulness (Phil 1:11, Jn 15), and a share in the divine nature (through Him living in us 2 Pet 1:4). Being united with Christ in his blessings also means being united with him in his sufferings (Phil 1:29&3:10), his rejection, and his hard work, which is a privilege anyway.
ix) Note that we were condemned and came under Satan’s kingdom because of our works, but the works that save us are not our works but the perfect works of Jesus. By grace God gives us faith in Jesus by which we appropriate this blessings as a free gift. There is absolutely no room for boasting.
x) This then affects how we live in a massive way. Firstly, we live as children of the Kingdom of God which means that our priorities and our lifestyle is totally changed. The Holy Spirit dwells inside us and works with us to bring us into the holy living, the eternal priorities and the intimate fellowship which is fitting/a)cioj for a child of the Kingdom. Secondly, Jesus continues through us the mission which he began in his earthly body 5BC-30AD, we Christians are united together as the Body of Christ, and through us he pushes back the defeated kingdom of darkness from its entrenched fortresses in the world, freeing its subjects into the Kingdom of God as he does so. Thirdly, we live not for the moment, but for that moment when Jesus returns and this AD Age ends. When Jesus returns the kingdom of darkness will be thrown into Hell and a new earth will replace this one. We will live forever with God in the Paradise of Heaven.
xi) At salvation all of the blessings of Christ become ours objectively, and we never receive a new blessing which is not ours the moment we are saved. Our life on earth between conversion and the Second Coming is appropriating those future blessings of the age to come now in this present age, our status becoming more and more our state (1C5:7). The spiritual battle described in Eph 6:10-20 is all about holding ground and laying hold of what is ours rather than taking new ground.
xii) We can then have full assurance that we are saved – lack of assurance is not evidence of humility but of doubting God’s promises (1Jn5:13&4:17). You can know that you are saved and are now in the Kingdom of God by two evidences:- i) Doctrine - what you believe, esp about Jesus, since we are saved by believing a specific Gospel ii) Lifestyle - Whether you live in obedient purity like the children of the Kingdom of God, and whether you love other Christians like the children of the Kingdom of God, since these changes can only have been brought about by the in-working of the Holy Spirit (1Jn, A26:20,Gal 5:6&21,1C6:9-11,1Th1:4-6,3Jn11). Faith + Love/Obedience à Assurance. In a sense the lifestyle tests also authenticate the doctrine test since what we really believe is not seen by what we profess but by what we practise (Jas 2:24). Your status is revealed by your state. Changes to someone’s external life are the proof that there have been changes in someone’s internal life, whereas if there is no outward change then there has probably been no inward change either. John Stott says on E2:8 “Good works are indispensable to salvation – not as its ground or means, however, but as its consequence and evidence.”
xiii) When we are assured in this way that we are saved, we also have complete assurance that we will not lose our salvation. Since God chose us before we did anything good or bad and saved us solely by His sovereign choosing, we know that He will also keep us by His sovereign choosing. God did not choose us millennia ago only to lose us by a bad sin next week (Rom 8:28-39). The fact that we never chose God gives us assurance that we can never un-choose Him either.
xiv) The Gospel includes a warning that conversion will bring trials and not just joy and prosperity (A14:22, 1Th3:3-4, Heb 10:34&11:37, R8:17, 1C15:19, Rev 1:9), both because ambassadors of the kingdom face conflict with the outgoing defeated kingdom of Satan, and because trials are one of the ways in which God works out His Kingdom in us (Acts 14:22). Paul realised that if he did not preach trials as part of his Gospel both pre- and post-conversion, then the Christians would lose heart and hope in the midst of trials as if something strange were happening to them, and they would lose their faith. The Gospel we preach determines the maturity and stability of those converted under it.
xv) Finally the Gospel ends with eschatological hope and looking to Jesus’ Second Coming and our being glorified in him
· This is a very comprehensive overview of the Gospel, but we would be unlikely to share all of this with one non-Christian in one sitting. It would probably be too much for them and would overwhelm them. The Gospel message in Titus 3:3-8 is iiià vàviiiàx. The Gospel message in 1C15 is viiiàviàviiàiiiàv. The Gospel message in 2C5:18&21 is iiiàviàviiiàx. We share it a piece at a time but try to communicate all xv points over time. (Cf R1:16-17, 1 Th2:12, Col 1:12-13, 1Jn3:14, Gal 3:26-29, 1C1:30, Jn5:24)
· The Gospel is the message of God to man, and it contains all we need for life. The Gospel is not just for non-Christians, and it is devastating if we relegate it to such a place (R1:15). Paul says in 2 Tim 1:11 that the Gospel is for evangelism to non-Christians, for teaching Christians and for apostolic foundation-laying for churches. It is through the Gospel of the cross of Jesus that we receive every single one of the blessings of the Christian life listed in point viii, from sanctification to baptism in the Holy Spirit to power for ministry to e)cousia over Satan. We possess nothing which is not ours through union with Christ through his cross and resurrection (2Ti1:1, 2C1:20). No one ever progresses beyond the Gospel to new teaching, the Christian life is simply understanding the Gospel at a deeper and deeper level and entering deeper into the Kingdom of God (1C15:2) (Kingdom of God is used synonymously with the Gospel in A19:8). Nor do we receive any of these blessings any other way – by grace through faith is not only how we enter in but also how we walk within (Gal 3:2&5,Heb11:6).
· Since the apostolic faith was a(pac/once for all given (Jude 3), we have no right to alter it and any new teaching you hear is likely to be false doctrine.
· We will not be sinless this side of Heaven but this does not mean we will not sin less! (1Jn1:8&2:1, 2Ti3:17). God has committed to sanctifying us, and we should be free of sins which troubled us last year, and dealing with the next area of sin. Satan is an internal foe working sin in us from the inside out (E2:2) and Jesus has committed to filling us with the Holy Spirit and driving Satan out of every foothold he has in us (E4:27).
· Two extremes are i) To try to sanctify ourselves by our own hard work, but this is impossible (Jn 8:34), and is basically Legalism, trying to sanctify ourselves using the Law. Ascetism actually increases rather than decreases sin (Col 2:23) and only God can sanctify (1Th 5:23) ii) To abdicate personal responsibility and to “let go and let God,” which flies in the face of the biblical commands to work with the Holy Spirit to be sanctified (2 Tim 2:15, 2 Peter 3:14, Jude 20-21, 1 Tim 4:7-8 & 1Jn3:3).
· We are sanctified in the same way in which we are justified – by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. We are sanctified by the Word and by the Spirit (2Th2:13 & E5:26), since the Word tells us that we were crucified with Christ and therefore our sarc is dead (Col 3:3), and the Word tells us what we already are in Heavenly places so that we can work it out on earth (esp Eph 4:17-24, Col 3:1-17, Gal 5:16-26 & Rom 13:12), and we then accept these truths by faith (A26:18). We then go to the cross and renounce a particular sin as a one-off action (R8:13), asking the Holy Spirit to apply to us the objective fact that we have died to that sin (Col 3:5, Gal 5:24). Then we ask the Holy Spirit daily to work out in us His holiness from the inside out as we actively choose each day to leave the sarc on the cross and not to gratify its desires but the Spirit’s desires (R8:1-17&Gal5:16-17).
· Therefore grace and holiness are not opposites but go hand in hand. In fact Grace teaches us to say no to sin (Ti2:11-12). A true understanding of grace leads us to use our freedom to be willing slaves of God (1Pe2:16). Whereas the OT Law told people from the outside to do what they did not want to do, the New Covenant of Grace tells us from the inside to do the very thing we now want to (Phil 2:13) – baptism in the Holy Spirit is not just helpful for sanctification but essential for sanctification (R7-8:17). Generations tried to be holy via the Mosaic Law in their own strength but failed, but the New Covenant Law of Love is harder than the Mosaic Law to keep since it is internal as well as external, and is able to be harder because integral to the New Covenant is baptism in the Holy Spirit. Anyone who pretends to receive God’s grace but cares little for changing their lifestyle shows that he despises God (2Sa12:9-10) and greatly displeases God – calling into question whether he is truly saved.
· Temptation is the daily struggle against sin. Temptation is not sin – Jesus was tempted in every way just like us but never sinned (H4:15), his experience just means he is completely able to help us. When we are tempted the two lies which the devil uses to try to hold his ground in our lives are i) No one else has gone through this and ii) I cannot resist this, but 1C10:12 tells us that both of those things are untrue. Jesus knows exactly what we can bear and will not let us be tempted beyond that. God will always give you an exit to resist temptation (1C10:12), but that exit is usually at the start of the temptation. Wrong looking à Wrong thoughts à Wrong actions à Very Wrong actions (Jas 1:14-15,2Sa11,Prov 4:23,Mt 6:22-23). 2 Pet 2:14-15 teaches us that whatever we choose to exercise our heart in today becomes what we look at tomorrow and do the day after that. Be radical with sin at its very conception, as it is much easier to deal with then (2Sa3:15-16). Paul also says that the best way to avoid sexual temptation to have an active sex life with your spouse (1Th4:4-6).
· Some motivations not to sin:-
i. Being who you are in Christ – This is by far the most common NT motivation, not the Law, it is always live like the person you are (E4:25&28, 2Pe1:9). Note that the Law will never motivate people to serve God, and nor will emotional pleas to the heart or threats. Only the Gospel can give lasting motivation not to sin (1Th1:3).
ii. Fear of God – God will not only return and judge all those who live as if they are children of the kingdom of darkness (practise is more important than profession) (1Pe4:1-11,E5:5), but He is committed to avenging anyone you wrong here and now (1Th4:6). See also Ex 20:20
iii. The Reward God will give us – H6:10 promises us that God would be unjust not to reward our every single good work. Mt 5:19 says that those who enter the Kingdom will be great or less great based on obedience to God. We will all stand before the bhma of Christ and receive reward/loss based on our response to God’s grace in this life (2C5:10,Mt10:33).
iv. Inherent Reward – There is no greater joy than seeing someone come to the Lord and go on with Him because of your lifestyle, and how we live is vital in evangelism (Ti2:10).
v. The Knowledge that Lust is never satisfied – Whether for a woman (Jer 5:8), or for possessions (2Ki17:9), lust does not diminish with appeasement, but rather demands more. Our only logical hope is to tackle it early on. In fact, the fact that “small” sins lead to big sins causes us to fear giving any more ground today.
vi. The Knowledge that Sin is Satan’s weapon – Satan is not to be trifled with, and any compromise we make with sin will be exploited by him later for full effect. Give him an inch and he will use it to destroy you.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE GOSPEL
· All are guilty - even if we break only one part of the Law we are lawbreakers and therefore guilty/deserving of death and Hell (Jas 2:10). Even if our conscience does not feel guilty this does not mean we are not since God is our judge, not our corrupted conscience (1C4:4,R9:1,1 Jn 3:19-20)
· We are not only saved through the cross of Jesus but also through his resurrection –He paid the price for our sin on the cross, but his resurrection showed the sacrifice was acceptable to God. The cross gives us forgiveness but through his resurrection we are raised to new life (R4:25).
· Faith itself does not save us, but the thing we have faith in - “God justifies the believer not because of the worthiness of his belief, but because of his worthiness in whom he believes.”
· We are justified by the Law/works, but Jesus’ works, not our own – Everyone will be judged on the basis of their works (Rom 2:6-11), except those who are united with Christ and judged on his works. Jesus obeyed the law 100% (R3:31). When we say that we are saved by faith, it is shorthand for saying that we are saved by faith into the perfect works of Jesus. The Law itself is not bad, just trying to be justified or sanctified by our obedience to the Law rather than by Jesus’ obedience to the Law (R7:22)
· What about those who have not heard? Those who have not heard the Gospel will not be judged for having rejected the Gospel but for having disobeyed the revelation they did have eg conscience. Conscience is the Law written on hearts even without the Law (R2:12-15). See also Jn 5:45n.
· Surely there will be some second chance for “good” people? God specifically says that he will not look at people’s faces and be swayed by them (R2:11,1Pe1:17), and that he will not be sweet-talked by anyone in his dock (Jer 8:17). He has actively promised that He will not let anyone off who is guilty (2Chr19:7), and having seen the lengths He went to to be just in saving people through the cross we can be sure that He means it. The very fact someone asks this question shows that they have lost sight of the balance in God’s character, kindness and severity (R11:22).
· Does God judge people in this life too as well as Hell? Yes (2 Pe2:9) but not everyone (1Ti5:24), some he only judges in Heaven. This is the most tragic group, those that God judges not by intervention but by lack of intervention (R1:24). When God punishes people in this life it often leads to repentance (Jer 2:19) but by no means always, it can often harden people (1 Ki 18:4,5,17 & 2Chr28:22). In some ways God does punish everyone in this life, since part of His punishment is to refuse to initiate the proud rebel into His musthria, and as a result they are never saved (Mt 13:15).
· Does the doctrine of Predestination mean some are predestined to Hell too? 1 Pet 2:8 says yes, which was the logical conclusion of the positive predestination anyway. Yet he continues in 2 Pet 3:9 by saying that tells us that even though He predestines people to destruction, He does not wish them to be damned. God’s perfect will is for everyone to be saved, but He allows people to reject His perfect will for them (Lk 7:30), and to receive His permissive will for their lives instead … which is what they were predestined for. Cf also 1 Tim 2:3-4 & Rom 9.
· If Election gives assurance then why do some verses warn us not to fall away? The NT tends to teach eternal security to sincere and concerned believers. It tends to warn against falling away when the readers are complacent and are using the doctrine of Election to abdicate their calling (eg Heb 6:4-8&10:26-31). We see a great balance in the two parallel verses 2Pe3:17&Jude24 where one stresses security and the other warning against falling away. These two truths balance each other, they do not contradict. Make sure you preach the right emphasis to the right type of Christian as the right truth applied at the wrong time can have the wrong effect.
· What is the right use of the Law today? The Law is good when used rightly, it is bad when it is used wrongly (1Ti1:8-11) It is not to justify us, to sanctify us, or even to direct our lives. The nomoj exists for the a)nomoi, to show them the standards by which God will judge them, so that they are undone before His holiness and repent through conviction of sin. Good use of the Law is to convict sinners of their sin (2 Ki 22:11). Wrong use of the Law is Legalism, defined by Greg Haslam as the inappropriate use of the Law by Christians to achieve that which the Law cannot achieve. Cf also R3:19-20&7:22 that this was the purpose of the Law even in OT times.
· The Bible tells us that there are three key building blocks to effective Evangelism:-
1. The Christian’s Lifestyle
2. The Christian’s Presence among Non-Christians
3. The Christian’s Verbal Communication of the Gospel
Put in a formula:- GOOD WALK + GOOD MIXING + GOOD TALK à PEOPLE SAVED (Mittelberg’s HP+CP+CCàMI)
· 1. The Christian’s Lifestyle / Good Walk – This is the bedrock of all evangelism. We are called to be witnesses primarily rather than to do witnessing (A1:8,Is 43:10). Specifically the two aspects of Good Walk in the NT are i) Good works and ii) Love. Jesus says that if we display good works then those around us will be saved (Mt 5:13-16), and he adds that a Christian without godly lifestyle is useless in the Kingdom (v13), and a Christian who hides his godly lifestyle is ludicrous (v14). Paul continues this teaching, saying that our lives are like the NT written on us, and people who come into contact with us “read the Bible of our lives” by seeing our lifestyle (2C3:1-18). He says that people see our lives and are either attracted to or repelled from the Gospel (1Ti6:1,Ti2:5&8), they either think “mmm, Christianity is attractive” or “ugh, Christianity is disgusting” (Ti2:10). This is supremely true of Christian leaders, whose lifestyle is even more important in this than normal Christians (2Pe2:2). The emphasis is on the simple nuts and bolts of everyday life eg women fulfilled by being women and by submitting to their husbands makes the Gospel attractive to non-Christians (Ti2:5), so does people taking responsibility for their own lives and not sponging off others (1Th4:11-12), so does not gossiping or meddling in other people’s lives (1Th4:11-12), and so does being a good citizen (1Pe2:15). Peter continues this theme too and emphasises that if we live good lives filled with good works then people around us will be converted (1Pe2:12,2:15&3:1-2). Paul summarises this with one of his trustworthy sayings in Ti3:8, that anyone who is a Christian will produce good works and those good works will result in the Gospel having massive impact on the lost. The NT writers are clear that not all will be saved through seeing our love and good deeds – some will hate us as a result of them (1Pe4:4,1Jn3:13,2C3:14-16), but either way, love and good deeds provoke a firm response to the Gospel. In fact, since everyone who truly lives the Christian life will be persecuted (2Ti3:12), persecution shows that we are living the kind of life which will result in people being saved, and lack of persecution shows we are not.
· The same is true of the Church. The main way in which the Church spreads the Gospel is by lifestyle (1Th1,Col4:5-6). God’s plan to reach the world is churches which embody the Gospel and through whom the Gospel goes out. Phil 1:27-28 specifically mentions unity/love in the face of persecution from outside as a prophetic message to those outside of the church that the Gospel really is true. Is 52:5 says the same thing negatively.
· How does this work? Christians are a sign and a wonder to the world just by living the normal Christian life (Is 8:18). Our love and good deeds make the invisible God visible to the world around us when they see Him in us through our actions (1Jn 4:12,Jn 13:35,Mt5:14+Jn8:12). When people see God in us then they are able then to see God in us and be saved.
· What are the implications of this? i) We need to be radical with sin in God’s sight but also radical about even appearing to sin in the eyes of non-Christians. Eph 5:3 puts the emphasis not on is this sin? but on might this look like sin to a non-Christian who sees me? ii) We need to pursue love and good works far above conforming to our society in order to reach it. Often our godly lifestyle causes people to hate us, but rejection for godliness in the end wins far more people for the Gospel than acceptance for compromise (Jer 15:17-19). One of the reasons the Gospel seems unsuccessful in the West is that we have made it unattractive by our ungodly lifestyles. What we need is greater conformity to Jesus, not to the world. iii) We tend to focus our evangelistic energy in the Western Church into programmes and evangelistic techniques, and grow frustrated when we see little fruit. However, Scripture tells us that if we Walk the Walk then non-Christians will wake up and will be attracted to the Gospel like bees to honey or a moth to a flame. iv) Since love and good deeds are not generated by good intentions but by the in-working of the Holy Spirit, we need to teach clearly into baptism in the Holy Spirit and sanctification. v) Since meeting together as Christians is the thing which spurs us on to love and good deeds (H10:24), then in order to win the world to the Gospel we will not neglect meeting together.
· 2. Good Mixing / Presence – However potent our lifestyle, if we are not living in and amongst non-Christians then there is no way in which they can see it and be saved. Jesus’ two metaphors salt and light both have inherent within their usefulness their being in the midst of darkness/unsalty food. There is no place for a Christian ethic of physical separation from non-Christians, in fact Jesus was the friend of sinners (Mt 11:19), even though he was separate from sinners (Heb 7:26). We are to be spiritually separate but physically very present, different in destination but together in location (1C8:10). Paul did all he could to make it as easy as possible for Christians to mix freely with non-Christians (1C5:9-10etc), and we too must ensure that those in our churches are actively present amongst the lost and not part of a “holy huddle.” Evangelism requires us to live in Heaven with God yet still be able to live on earth with men, so that we can bridge the gap between the two (2C5:13). Note that inherent within constant presence amongst non-Christians is also constant readiness to share with them (E5:16,2Ti4:1-2) whether or not the time is convenient or we are in the mood. We are to be in the positions which the General has given us and ready for action at all times.
· 3. Good Talk / Clear Communication – When a non-Christian is with a Christian and sees the quality of that person’s life then it opens them up to receive the Gospel, but the Gospel itself still needs to be explained. Salvation comes through faith in certain facts, and therefore requires some information to be transmitted verbally – Paul’s equation in 2Ti3:15 is Knowledge + Faith in that Knowledge à Salvation. Peter states again and again in 1Pe2:1-3:2 that a Christian’s love and good deeds will result in non-Christians being saved, but then in 1Pe3:15-16 he says that verbal communication is necessary to turn what people have seen into their own conversion. He emphasises the necessity of preparation for Gospel discussions and that every Christian should get himself ready for sharing. He also emphasises the style of sharing, and says that the way we share is as important as what we share, assuming that sharing in an ungracious way will win the argument but lose the person, whereas sharing in a gracious way will win the person regardless of the outcome of the intellectual discussion. Three key marks of how we are to share the Gospel are with meekness (ie humble rather than know-it-all), respect (ie honouring the person and their journey rather than just seeing them as a target), and good conscience (ie being utterly truthful and faithful in communication (1Pe3:16). Paul adds to this patience (2Ti4:1-2) and grace (Col 4:5-6). When we do this then even the tiniest believer can be a world-changer (2Ki5:2-3). The biblical principles for how to share the Gospel seem to be:-
i) Begin by Listening to what people already believe/value and to their own perception of their needs, drawing out the thoughts of their hearts (Prov 20:5). Give them time and ask question after question and listen carefully to what they say (Lk 2:46). Then start sharing the Gospel from their current beliefs and interests (A8:35) rather than as a impersonal package.
ii) Reason with People by knitting together/sumbibazwn (A9:22) what they already believe to keep what is good and to show the inconsistencies and error which their current worldview contains. By continuing to use questions to open up fully what they believe and compare it with other thing they believe (A17:2-3), you show them that what they currently believe is not coherent but has gaps and cannot meet their needs, which opens them up to receive the Gospel.
iii) Communicate the Gospel in such a way that it is obvious that it fits the gaps in their current understanding as you have already knitted it together through your discussion. Do not share points i) to xv) all at one time since it would overwhelm them, but keep what you share entirely focused on Jesus, and Jesus as the perfectly fitting answer to their unmet needs. Note that the purpose of asking questions to understand their current views and then knitting them together is not a softly-softly tactic to avoid confrontation and gently lead the person to the realisation they do believe the Gospel after all. The purpose of this is to identify the key areas where their thinking most disagrees with the Gospel and to attack those strongholds of wrong thinking head on (R5:20,Prov21:22,2C10:4-5). This was Paul’s tactic in Athens and elsewhere, to observe and listen to what people currently believed, and then to share the Gospel in a way which deliberately attacked that wrong thinking head on. Confrontation with the Gospel leads to clear decisions one way or the other, but softly-softly leads to neither (Jer 6:14). We need to risk becoming hated by those with whom we share (1Ki21:20), since God’s plan is that his messengers be so bold and straightforward that the ungodly see their ungodly deeds (Jude 14-15). We do so with gentle meekness, but we do not tone down the message and we do not shrink back from asking some really tough questions (Jer 37:17-20).
iv) Challenge to Receive the Gospel This is the vital next step. See notes on pressing for a decision below.
Note in view of these three elements why being filled with the Holy Spirit is so indispensable for evangelism that Jesus told the disciples not even to try until they had been baptised in the Holy Spirit (Lk 24:49). We cannot live a life of love and good deeds by our own will-power but only by the Holy Spirit filling us and working His holiness out from within (R7-8:17), we cannot be present amongst non-Christians without being contaminated unless we are kept pure from within by the Holy Spirit, and we cannot clearly communicate the Gospel without the Holy Spirit working in us to help us (Lk 21:15). Non-charismatic evangelism is a contradiction in terms. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not simply helpful for evangelism, it is indispensable.
PRESSING FOR A DECISION / APPEALS
· It is crucial that we do not merely present the Gospel but that we also call for a response. Evangelism is not just sharing the content of the Gospel but also commanding people to repent (A17:30,Rev 14:7), and begging them to be reconciled to God (2C5:20).
· In the economy of God, people are not at all times equally receptive to the truth. Since it is God Himself who makes His word plain to us, we should not assume that if someone understands something today that they will still understand it tomorrow (2C6:2). Scripture is full of people who understood but who delayed (Felix A24:25) or changed the subject (Agrippa A26:28, Judah’s leaders Jer 36:15-16), and went to Hell as a result. Nor is repentance a self-induced action, Scripture is clear that Esau wanted to repent and even sought repentance with tears, but was unable to repent. If someone is understanding the truth and feeling prompted to respond then we had better help them to respond to God’s grace today.
· At the same time we note as above that conversion is a process which takes time. Trying to force someone to repent too early can also be disastrous. If an apple is difficult to pull off the tree then it will probably be sour. We do not use forcing tactics, but we do give a clear appeal to respond to the Gospel right there and then, letting God do the rest.
· We know that someone is ready to be saved when they show signs of three things:- i) Conviction that they have sinned and are heading for just Judgment/Hell as a result ii) Faith in the power of God to save them through the cross in spite of that sin (conviction without faith is despair not saving faith cf Col 2:12) iii) Willingness to turn from sin and repent. If someone shows all three of these things then they are ready to move from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of God.
· The conversion process is not described in a formulaic way in the NT, but all of the key passages include some of the following:- Believe à Repentance through verbal confession of sin à Receive Forgiveness à Baptism in Water à Receive Holy Spirit à Witness to others (Acts 2:38, R10:9-10). These six things are consistently seen as one indivisible package by the NT writers, so that they treat being saved and receiving the Holy Spirit as the same thing (Gal 3:2, E1:13-14), being saved and being water baptised as the same thing (Gal 3:27, 1C12:13), and conversion/baptism in water/baptism in the Holy Spirit as the same thing (A22:16). Of course this does not mean that these things are automatic at conversion, since water baptism is obviously not automatic, but what it means is that it was outside of the NT writers’ frame of reference for someone to be saved and not be baptised in water and the Holy Spirit straight away. This was the only NT norm.
1. God uses people win people. Advertising and direct mail, etc can be effective – although they are generally not very effective – but there is no substitute for people contact. Invest your energy into creating a church of evangelistic people rather than a bigger and better advertising campaign. Note that the Bible has no qualm in saying that a Christian can save his friends (1C9:22&7:16) – God loves to use people filled with His Spirit to continue Jesus’ ministry on earth.
2. God mobilises every member of his church to win the people in their world. Your town will never be reached simply by a core group of dedicated gospel-sharers, the whole church needs to be mobilised (1Chr4:27). Even though not every Christian is an evangelist, every Christian is a witness (A8:4-5,A1:8). Every Christian needs to be gossiping the gospel all of the time in life, deed and speech (A8:25). The early church grew rapidly through every Christian living the life, being amongst non-Christians and sharing the gospel with them, and we dare not neglect this either – every member ministry in evangelism is still God’s evangelistic strategy for the world. In fact, we can see from Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, from his activity in Ephesus at the Lecture Hall of Tyrannus, and from Col 4:5-6 that Paul method for evangelising the world was to reach out through active cold contact evangelism to save a small group himself, and then to devote all of his time and energy into building them up in the Lord and sending them out into the harvest field to bring in their friends. Paul was not busy doing open air evangelism in Ephesus or Thessalonica long after the church was established, he was busy creating a healthy church which would all reach out to those in the city. This is a key lesson for us in our strategy too.
3. We are simply messengers of God called to deliver the Gospel message to the unsaved (2C5:19-20,1Th2:13,Mal 2:7). We have no freedom to change or adapt its content or even its tone (Ex 5:1-3), but simply to present it, knowing that the gospel clearly delivered will result either in fervent acceptance or fervent rejection, as God works in someone’s heart (2C2:17). Since we know that the Gospel is a musthrion revealed by God only to His chosen initiates (1Pe1:12), we realise that the idea that we can somehow reason people into the Kingdom or win them by altering its content is preposterous (2C4:1-6). People only accept the Gospel because of God’s sovereign desire, and He will certainly not choose to do so if we alter his message. The teaching on Election (“People do not get saved by good intentions but by God intentions”) becomes a safeguard to us.
4. Preach the Gospel by appealing to Kingdom of God reasoning rather than worldly reasoning – this is the meaning of 1C2:6-16 in light of Col 1:28 & 2Pe3:15. Paul teaches that we can win people to the Gospel by stressing how it will meet their self-centred desires, but those converts are man-made converts, false converts, and ultimately converts who will not last the course. He teaches that the right way to preach the Gospel is to appeal to God-centred motives which will only be received by the hearer if the Lord regenerates their Spirit and enables them to desire to do that which God wants. Paul shows that if people are saved by God’s work and not your persuasion then they will stand even if you cannot continue to input into their lives (A20:32, Phil 1:6), whereas persuading people to receive the Gospel as a way to please self is simply to redirect their idolatry rather than turn them from idolatry (E5:5). Everything within us feels as though we should change the Gospel to make it less offensive and more acceptable to worldly man, but Paul specifically says that doing so robs the Gospel of its power (1C1:18-2:5). One of the reasons we have so much worldliness in the church is that the Gospel we preached when people were added to the church did not topple the reign of worldliness in them, and they never really converted from self-interest (Is 47:13).
5. Preaching the Gospel fully and without alteration will always result in opposition / persecution (1Th2:1-2,2C2:16). Do not be surprised at this, but be encouraged that your message must be coming across well since it has aroused a conflict between the two kingdoms just like the great men of God of the past (Lk 6:23,Is30:11), and it shows that the lifestyle that you are living is the kind which will save people too. We simply need to keep on sharing the Gospel boldly despite being hated/ persecuted, knowing that short-term unpopularity will in time lead to eternal fruit through salvations (E5:11).
6. God is already at work in the world around you, so you do not step out in evangelism to begin God’s work in someone but to take what God is already doing to the next level (Is 6:3). God always works both ends of the line, (1Ki17:8-12) and we can have confidence that if we have a chance to share with someone today then God was probably working in their heart yesterday. In fact, one of the ways in which we can see where God is at work (Jn5:19) is if someone is seeking God, because since Scripture says that no one does this of their own accord (R3:11), and therefore when we see someone doing so it fills us with great confidence that they are about to get saved through our sharing. Zacchaeus in Lk 19 is a great example of Jn 5:19 in action.
7. Conversion is a process which takes time. Even the Damascus road experience was not a Damascus Road experience (A26:14)! Give people time to change their thinking. Appeals are very good, but do not pick fruit too early.
8. The Lord judges His Church for unfaithfulness by withholding salvation fruit from them. However, in times of blessing the Church he gives them harvests big enough to make up for the lost years of judgment (Joel 2:25), so we should expect huge harvests in times of revival. We should also not base our faith for this year’s harvest on last year’s. In God’s sovereign plans some years yield massively greater harvest than others (Lk5:5).
9. God appear to have a bias towards the poor and oppressed, and when a church fishes in line with this bias it finds it enjoys God’s bias towards fruitfulness (Zech 11:7&11).
10. Our capacity to receive salvation fruit is a key driver in determining how much gospel fruit God will give us. He loves the lost too much to give them to a Church which cannot integrate them, and He loves the Church too much to give a church so much fruit that it will sink under the load (Lk5:6-7). Massive fruit is usually preceded by a church making room for receiving massive fruit (Is 54:2-3).
11. A Church needs to have an evangelistic programme to helps its members in their one-on-one evangelism. Just because a church is loving / full of good deeds, and even zealously gossiping the Gospel, does not mean that people will swarm in (Neh 7). We need not only a vision/plan from the Lord on how to build the Church but also a vision/plan from the Lord on how to bring people into the Church (Neh 7:5&2:12). The key verse is 2 Sa 14:14 “God devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him,” and as the Church continues Jesus’ ministry on earth it must have a programme of many different ways in which the lost can come into the church family and be saved – eg every Sunday service being relevant, special Gospel services, Alpha, seeker events, social with Gospel events. We too must have a priority on devising many ways for non-Christians to come in, and on helping church members to understand / use them.
MOTIVATIONS FOR EVANGELISM
1. It is Christ’s commission over our lives and therefore our destiny (Mt 28:16-20). In fact, certain Scriptures say that God sees a Christian who does not lead non-Christians to salvation as worthless (Mt 5:13, 2C6:1)! If we do not deliver the Gospel package with which Jesus has entrusted us for non-Christians then we effectively rob them of what is rightfully theirs (R1:14,2Ki7). Therefore one of our motivators is fear of God since we will give an account to Him over whether or not we delivered the Gospel faithfully (2C5:11), or put more positively we are motivated by the hope of reward from Him for delivering the Gospel well (Phil 4:1, Lk19:17&19,H6:10).
2. The doctrine of Election also spurs us on (2Ti1:9-10,A18:9-11). The salvation of the lost is not only God’s commission to us but it is also God’s commission to His Son, and there is an Elect who will be saved. All over the world the Gospel is bearing fruit (Col 1:6 eg more Muslims saved 1985-2005 than any 20 year period in history), and this spurs us on to evangelism in the assurance that God has His elect around us too whom He wants to save. Some abuse the doctrine of Election to make it an excuse not to evangelise, but the true outworking of the doctrine of election is not passive reassurance but even harder work in prayer and evangelism (1Th5:17&1C15:10). If your understanding of Paul’s doctrine of election does not lead to Paul’s action then you have misunderstood Paul’s doctrine of election. True understanding of Election leads to greater prayer and evangelism.
3. The only reason the Second Coming has not yet come is Jesus is still fulfilling his mission and desire to bring in all of the elect (2 Pet 3:8-9), and so our increased evangelism is a way to speed up Jesus’ return (2 Pet 3:11).
4. It is one of the ways in which we express love towards Jesus (Jn 14:15), and enjoy fellowship with him as we work with him
5. . It is his mission and priority, and it gives him enormous joy when someone is saved (Lk15:7&10). In fact, evangelism and worship are linked again and again in the Bible, with evangelism being a form of worship, declaring God’s greatness in speech before non-Christians rather than in song before Christians (R1:9).
5. Those around us are going to Hell without any second chance unless they are saved in this life (Eze3:18, Rev 14:10-11). Therefore Christ’s love for the lost working in us besieges us so that we are forced to share the Gospel (2C5:14
9. ). This is why there is no greater joy in life than to see someone saved through you and going on with God from strength to strength (3Jn4).
6. As we share the Gospel we understand it and participate in its blessings more and more ourselves (Phm6). When we share the Gospel we end up with more than when we started (Jn 6:13), even if the person rejects the Gospel.
Note that all of our motivation for evangelism / church planting needs to be on behalf of the name of Jesus (R1:5), and not for personal or denominational success – that is just a spiritualised form of pride/factionalism.
· On one level if someone is genuinely saved by the power of God then they will be genuinely kept by the power of God (A20:32). Paul was able to set up converts from paganism as elders in Galatia within a year since he knew that God had begun and God would finish the work (A14:23), and Philip was able to leave the Ethiopian (A8:39). The Lord promises that He will teach us and grow us by the Holy Spirit (Jn 6:45, Is 54:13, Hos 14:4,1Th4:9,1Jn2:27), and the Holy Spirit works in us to give us peace /lack of peace, and clear guidance into what is true/right and what is not (Jn 14:26). On this level the biggest thing we can do to disciple someone is to lead them into the baptism of the Holy Spirit as quickly as possible.
· Yet on another level we have responsibility to teach and disciple people. The same John who writes that the Lord will teach people also writes a Gospel, a Revelation and three letters because they need teaching. The same Paul who writes that the Thessalonians were qeodidaktoi devoted a huge amount of time to discipling them (2Th3:5) despite only having 2-3 weeks with them and needing to do secular work to feed himself (1Th2:9). Zeal without knowledge is disastrous (R10:2), even though knowledge without zeal is also disastrous, and ignorance leads to loss and disaster (Is 5:13). One of the key roles of a pastor is to teach the people what is right (Is 1:17&2:3), and failure to grow is often just as much due to poor teaching from the leaders as it is unteachable hearts in the hearers. Gal 6:6 uses the word kathxew / to catechise, and the leaders of the early church gave themselves to catechising new believers, knowing that they would only survive as Christians if they were well instructed, and they would be very powerful in bringing the kingdom into the world around them if they were instructed. In fact, it stands to reason that if the way in which the unsaved are reached with the Gospel is every Christian being mobilised then it also stands to reason that one of the key tasks of elders is to teach, equip & mobilise every Christian.
· 1&2Thessalonians and Heb 6:1-2 give us the core areas we are to cover in discipling new believers:-
i) Not self-effort but appropriating the benefits of the Cross by grace through faith. How this applies for justification, sanctification, ministry, growth in prayer and worship etc. This would also cover warnings against Legalism and the need to work out everything in the Christian life through His power rather than our power.
ii) Baptism in Water as the outward obedient symbol of the inward change from one kingdom to another.
iii) Baptism in the Holy Spirit as the key to fellowship with God, sanctification by God, ministry with God, etc.
iv) Receiving the xarismata so that they can serve in Christ’s Body in the place which God has apportioned them.
v) The necessity of trials in this life and that there will be many antichrists who oppose and persecute Christians and the Church. God has already won the victory, and through these trials we actually enter deeper into the Kingdom.
vi) Eschatology, esp the Second Coming as our great hope, and the certainty of Eternal Judgment and Rewards as a reason to both fear and hope.
· We should also include the seven core ways to grow as a Christian:- + + ßà + à + WATER + FIRE + SWORD
This does not tend to be the core syllabus which we teach to new converts, but failure to teach i) to iv) leaves them powerless and frustrated, failure to teach iv) leaves them spectating and unconnected, and failure to teach v) to vi) leaves them in unreality and immaturity. We need to rediscover this milk and teach it to our new believers if we are to produce a new generation of active adult Christians rather than constantly dependent baby Christians.
Note also that we do not particularly teach commitment/financial giving etc to new converts since that is the fruit of discipleship. Rather we teach the root of discipleship ie being embedded firmly in Christ’s love and power, and as they are embedded in him, the fruit naturally comes (Col 2:6-7).
· What is not included in 1&2Thess or in Heb 6:1-2 is the dealing of past rubble in people’s lives, and which can be a real obstacle to the work of building the Kingdom (Neh 4:10). This may be included in what is signified by baptism in water, but often some time spent renouncing old ways of thinking and living is necessary, as a personal is healed and restored from the damage of living in the kingdom of darkness (Lk 4:18-19), and made healthy for service as a Christian.
· It is important that discipleship does not create a dependency in the disciple on the discipler. Every Christian has a personal responsibility not just to be fed but to exercise himself with the food he has already received, so that he grows and starts feeding others (Heb 5:12-14). All discipling of new converts should have as its aim the new Christian standing firm on his own two feet and discipling others. The aim is always releasing new soldiers, not on prolonging dependency.
PERSONAL SPIRITUAL GROWTH
· Salvation is a gift of God by grace through faith, and not dependent in any way on self-effort. Growing as a Christian takes place in exactly the same way as becoming a Christian – how you enter in is also how you walk within. Study itself does not lead to spiritual understanding, but only enlightenment by the Holy Spirit as we study (E1:17-18,Jn 5:39,2Ti3:7,Mt13:11).
· Yet at the same time, just as we appropriate the gracious and undeserved blessings of the cross by faith which is seen in action, so too we grow in the Christian life by actively taking hold of the means which God has given us to grow up in Him. Godliness is not a passive thing which just “happens” or “doesn’t happen” to us. Paul encourages Timothy to train/gumnazw himself in godliness, and encourages him to do so more diligently than the sports-obsessed Greek young men (1Ti4:7-8). The other NT writers also emphasise that we can train ourselves in godliness (2Pe3:14, Jude 20-21). We reap spiritually what we sow (Hos 10:12-13, Gal 6:7-8).
· Although we cannot grow ourselves in the Christian walk, God gives us various means by which we can grow in our Christian walk. If we devote ourselves to these things then we will grow. If we do not devote ourselves to these things then we will not grow. This is the paradox of the Christian life – we do not enter deeper into the Kingdom of God by works, but neither do we enter deeper by passivity (H4:11). As Rambabu says, “In the Christian life there are no elevators, only stairs” and “The things of God are free, but they are not cheap.”
ia) We must devour the Bible. The Bible is like milk, and if we crave and drink it then we will grow up from babies into strapping men of God, but if we do not crave and drink it then we will languish and die (1 Pet 2:2). Paul tells Timothy to devote himself to private Bible Study (1Ti4:13), and to meditate on it like a philosopher like Socrates would ponder over a question (1Ti4:15). We must not be intellectually lazy. The idea that we can simply wait for the Holy Spirit to “reveal” truth to us in a vacuum is super-spiritual and just plain wrong (2Ti2:7). Paul spent his time of retreat in Arabia devoting himself to reading the OT and it was through the OT Scriptures that the Holy Spirit revealed the musthria of the Gospel to him, not out of a vacuum (R16:25-26). We need to understand that even though study itself cannot generate understanding, the Holy Spirit by himself will not sanction our lack of earnest seeking. The true equation is Study + Holy Spirit Enlightenment à Understanding, and one of the reasons we often have so little Holy Spirit revelation is that we are not seriously in the Word where He longs to reveal truth to us (R15:4). Then we need to go beyond understanding to obedience, since blessing does not come from hearing God’s Word but from obeying it (Jas 1:21-25).
ib) We must pay careful head to the other ways in which God speaks to us. We must not despise prophecy by failing to meditate on it, but actually it is only by remembering Bible verses and prophetic words that we will endure faithfully under pressure and not cave in to the frequent wounds, setbacks and discouragements of the spiritual life (1Ti1:18). Prophecies can be the difference between standing firm and breaking ranks and fleeing. God also speaks to us through our conscience, and we must make sure that we obey our conscience straight away. If we obey our conscience immediately then it becomes more and more responsive to God’s leading, but if we ignore it then it becomes more and more insensitive to God’s leading until it is calloused and we can sin without feeling any guilt (1Ti1:19-20). Guard your conscience and obey it straight away – your life may depend on it. Furthermore, how we respond to God’s desire to sanctify us after conversion shows either that we secretly despise the cross or that we are truly repentant, and this affects how deeply we enter the Kingdom and relationship with God (H12:14&Mt5:8).
iia) We grow in our relationship with God through prayer. God does not simply drop spiritual experiences into our laps. There is a real sense in which our making time for prayer also makes room for God to lead us deeper into the things He wants to show us. Often in Scripture God revealed Himself to people during a time of prayer (A27:23,Rev 4:2).
iib) We also grow in our relationship with God through worship, both through singing praises to him on our own and with others, and also through living a lifestyle of worship to Him (Col 3:17).
iii) We grow in our relationship with God through fellowship with other Christians. Heb 10:24-25 is the classic verse on this, but Scripture is full of metaphors of God’s people being a united community and only sharing in full knowledge and full experience together (cf Col 2:2). It is also full of examples of godly men strengthening one another in the Lord (1Sa23:16-17, Prov 27:17) and spurring one another on when alone they would have given up. David Carr “What and who you expose yourself to will be exposed.”
iv) We grow by sharing the Gospel with non-Christians, which actually results in us understanding and experiencing it more and more (Phm6).
v) We grow by being baptised in water straight away, which is an external symbol of what has happened inwardly, but also seems to release something in the heavenlies as we proclaim our death to one kingdom and entrance into another.
vi) Very importantly, we grow by being baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are baptised in the Holy Spirit then Jesus comes and dwells within us, which then transforms our Bible reading, hearing God speak, prayer life, fellowship, and evangelism. Being baptised in the Holy Spirit is not simply a help to growing as a Christian, it is the sine qua non. We receive the Spirit by grace through faith, but we have an active role in receiving Him (Is 12:3).
vii) Trials and difficulties are the eighth and final way in which we grow as a Christian. Most of us would not actively seek out great trials/persecutions, but through those trials God leads us deeper and deeper into His Kingdom (A14:22), as we come to the end of our own strength, rely more on His strength, and become less attached to the things of this world.
One summary of these seven things is:- + + ßà + à + WATER + FIRE + SWORD
· In summary, God is more eager to grow us in Him than we are to grow. If He has given you a hunger to grow then it is because He has already stored up the things you need to fill that hunger (Mt 5:6). We cannot guarantee our growth or our fruitfulness, but if we actively devote ourselves to these eight things then we put ourselves in a place where God will work in us, and this in turn will guarantee our fruitfulness (2Pe1:8).
· This is a great antidote to consumer Christianity where congregations expect their leaders to take responsibility for their Christian growth. Every Christian is responsible for their own spiritual growth, and every Christian has a responsibility not only to be fed but to exercise himself with the food he has received, with the end goal of being able to start feeding others as soon as possible (Heb 5:12-14).
BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
· The Holy Spirit dwelling in us is not an aspect of the Christian life, it is the Christian life (2Ti1:14)! To neglect the baptism in the Holy Spirit is to reduce the Christian life almost to nothing, and we must be constantly on guard against this tendency. All of our fellowship with the Lord is through Him dwelling in us by His Holy Spirit, all of our sanctification is through Him dwelling in us by His Holy Spirit (R7-8:17, Col 1:8, Phil 2:13), all of our evangelistic fruit is through him dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit (Jn 15:5, A1:8), and all of our Church building (Neh 2:8&18) / Church leading (Ezra 7:9&28, Ezra 8:18&31) and advancing of the Kingdom is through Him dwelling in us by His Holy Spirit. Without the baptism in the Holy Spirit then we might as well pack up and go home (Lk 24:49). Of course we should be very wary of hyper-charismatics who seem leave the Word behind in an appeal to the Spirit, but we need to be equally wary of hyper-uncharismatic churches which go through the motions of Christianity, but preach a sanctification and a call to ministry which are devoid of the Holy Spirit’s power and are therefore worse than useless (2 Tim 3:5).
· Although the Holy Spirit came on particular people at particular times for particular tasks under the Old Covenant, one of the integral aspects of the promised New Covenant was that all under the New Covenant would be able to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Zech 12:10, Joel 2:28-29). The difference between Old Covenant and New Covenant is not quality of filling but quantity of filling ie all people receiving the OT experience of a handful of elite believers rather than people receiving a new type of filling (1Pe1:11&4:14). The Bible uses many different phrases to describe the indescribable fact of God living inside of a human, and it is clear that the phrases mean the same thing:- on = in = anointed = filled = baptised = clothed (2Chr 24:20 & 1 Chr 12:18). The only difference is that baptism in the Spirit refers only to the initial outpouring of the Spirit into a person, whereas all of the other phrases describe both the initial outpouring and subsequent outpourings.
· The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not automatic at conversion (A8:14-19,9:17-18,19:2&6), but it is something which has been secured for us by Jesus through his cross and is ours to receive by faith in the finished work of Jesus quite apart from our own merit, just like forgiveness (Gal 3:1-5). Every Christian in every generation (A2:39) should be filled with the Spirit as soon as possible after conversion, and there is no need for long tarrying for the baptism (Acts 2:1n), Jesus is eager to gush out abundantly His Spirit into us (Titus 3:5-6). In the early church baptism in the Holy Spirit was so much part of the normal process of discipleship after conversion that Paul is able to talk about conversion, baptism in water and baptism in the Holy Spirit as all part of one conversion event (Gal 3:2, E1:13-14, Gal 3:27, A22:16). These verses cannot mean that baptism in the Holy Spirit is automatic at conversion (unless we are willing also to argue that baptism in water is automatic at conversion), but they do show that no long tarrying or hesitancy is needed.
· Jesus wants to gush out the Holy Spirit to fill us lavishly every day (1Th4:8, Titus 3:5-6), and He gives the Spirit without limit (Jn 3:34). Any limits to our receiving the Holy Spirit are made by us, not by Him. One big limitation is our faith and how much we truly believe that Jesus will give us this through the cross (Jn 7:37-39, E3:17). Another limitation once we have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit is what we do with it. If we fan the flame of the spirit into vigorous flame (2 Tim 1:6) then we will receive more and more of Him, but if we quench/put out the Spirit’s flame in us (1Th5:19) by disuse, disobedience or cowardice then we will not receive much more than we have already received. Our heart attitude before receiving the Spirit and once we do receive the Spirit affects how much more of the Spirit we will receive. We are filled with the Spirit not so much like a cup is filled with water but as a sail is filled with wind and blown along (Mt 4:1, 2Pe 1:21), and so we need to go on being filled with the Spirit every day (Eph 5:18, A4:8,4:31,13:9, 1Th4:8), and there is always more of the Spirit to receive than we have received (A2:17n). We should constantly be filled with the Spirit so that we can constantly minister out of the filling we have (A7:55), but sometimes we will receive a fresh filling even as a particular event occurs (A4:8).
· The reason we receive the Holy Spirit is in order for Jesus to make us like Rocks in the Desert gushing out the Holy Spirit to the world around us. The concept of self-centred receiving is not biblical, but rather we are to become like drainpipes through whom Jesus gushes through his Holy Spirit to the world all around us (1Pe4:11, Jn 4:14, Jn 7:37-39, Phil 4:13, Col 1:29). In fact, one of the main reasons why we fail to receive as much of the Holy Spirit as we want is that we are stagnating, failing to give out what we have received and therefore preventing Jesus from giving us yet more. We need to stay connected to Jesus and constantly receiving and giving out the Holy Spirit. Jesus is wanting to continue his ministry through his new Body the Church (A1:1), and the Holy Spirit is looking for people with whom He can work in partnership since He does not have His own body (1C1:9, Jn 15:26-27), and so when we receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit we receive the dunamij of God inside of us since the Holy Spirit is the dunamij of God (Lk 24:49), and we receive Jesus to live inside of us, since to be filled with the Spirit is to have Jesus come and dwell in us (A3:20). Some of the effects then of being filled with the Holy Spirit are i) Intimate Fellowship with Jesus (Jn 15 comes between Jn 14&16 for a reason) ii) The fruit of the Spirit as the Holy Spirit works holiness in us from the inside out in a way in which the Law could never do from the outside in (R7-8:17, Gal 5:22-24) iii) The power of the Spirit in the xarismata/grace gifts (1C12, Is 11:2) iv) The wisdom and knowledge of the Spirit (Jn 14:26, A14:13, Is 11:12, 1Th4:9) v) The character of a soldier in Christ’s army eg courage for battle (1Sa10:26, A4:31), faith (1Chr12:18), ability to be an evangelistic witness for Jesus (A1:8, 1Sa16:18, A6:10, Is50:4-9), desire to worship (1Sa16:18, 1Chr12:18, E5:20), and willingness to follow God’s anointed leadership (1Chr12:18).
· Generally it is fair to say that someone will know if they have been filled with the Holy Spirit. The 120 knew that they had received the Holy Spirit (A2:14n), and Simon was willing to pay good money for the authority to pray for people to fileld with the Holy Spirit (A8:19). Paul talks about baptism in the Holy Spirit being so obvious that it is a sfragij and an a)rrabwn for us that we have genuinely been saved (2C1:21-22,Eph1:13-14&4:30). John gives assurance to Christians in 1 Jn by asking them whether they can see the effects of the in-working of the Holy Spirit in their lives. However, although it will be obvious to us, it is not always obvious to those around us, since other passages show that many people looked like Spirit-filled Christians but were false teachers (2C13:5, Jude 19). Being baptised with the Holy Spirit is proof that we are saved (A10:47), but the biggest proof of it is not the gifts of the Spirit but the fruit of the Spirit (Mt 7:20-23).
· So what about non-charismatics? If being filled with the Holy Spirit is so pivotal, are they even saved? Firstly it is important to note that non-charismatics do not deny that the baptism in the Holy Spirit exists, they tend to assume that it is automatic at conversion and to deny the xarismata, so many non-charismatics diligently ask Jesus to dwell in them and to work in them despite not using the right biblical terminology and therefore do experience the in-working of the Holy Spirit without accepting baptism in the Holy Spirit as such. Secondly it is important to recognise that denial of the xarismata and denial of the fundamental importance of a genuine experience of being baptised in the Holy Spirit leads to massive loss for non-charismatics, since they resist many of the things which Jesus wants to do in their lives. Thirdly it is important to recognise that many of the great men of church history, eg John Wesley, Spurgeon and Edwards, did have a charismatic experience of being baptised in the Holy Spirit and even speaking in tongues etc, but these have not been adequately recorded by their less charismatic historians. Therefore baptism in the Holy Spirit is absolutely vital to every Christian today, just as it has been to every Christian across Church History, and any Christian who resists it suffers great loss, but in His grace God works many of the benefits of being filled with the Holy Spirit in non-charismatics too in spite of their poor theology, and so we must not lose relationship with our Christian brothers and sisters over this issue.
· The Xarismata are listed in the appendix of the notes on 1 Cor, but here some detail on some of the xarismata is below. Note that people often receive a xarisma when others lay hands on them in prayer (2Ti1:6&1Ti4:14), which ties in with what Jesus teaches on us being filled so that by touching others the Spirit might flow from Jesus through us and into them. When someone receives a xarisma then they can choose either to grow in the gift through constant use, or to neglect the gift through disuse, but one of the sobering facts about the xarismata is that once God gives them He never revokes them. They are grace gifts not grace loans. This is awesome teaching and should cause us to honour them all the more.
o PROPHECY is Holy Spirit-inspired encouragement in the form of instructing people into truth, exhorting them to do right and admonishing them to stop doing wrong (A15:32). It also involves revelation either of the future (A11:28) or of the thoughts of a person’s heart (1C14:24-25), and should cause people to realise that God knows all about them and to fear Him and repent. It may be very short (Hag 1:13 only 2 words), but God’s word given in God’s way in just God’s amount will fulfil God’s intent. God will often give someone a prophecy via them seeing a picture and having an interpretation of what that picture means (Amos 7:1-9), via an open vision/moving picture/trance/e)kstasij (A10:10,22:17,7:55, 2 Cor 12:2-4, Rev 1), via a pun which comes to mind (Amos 8:1-2, Micah 1), or via another form of revelation. The means will vary, but the principle is that God does nothing without telling His People beforehand through prophecy (Amos 3:7). There seems to be a clear link between people worshipping God and prophecy coming to God’s people (1 Chr 25:3,2 Ki 3:15), so often prophecy will come in a church meeting during the time of worship.
o False prophecy which comes from wishful thinking or personal desire is very damaging to the Church (Jer 28:15-17), in fact even genuine prophesy when applied wrongly is very damaging to the Church (A21:4,10-14), so do not treat prophesying lightly. The prophet can guard against prophesying falsely by getting to know the Word of God and God Himself which helps them to discern if their word is genuinely from Him (Jer 23:16-18), but church leaders need to lead the church to spend as much time in the weighing of prophecy as they do in the receiving of prophecy, and this is one of the reasons why prophets are subject to elders and not vice versa. Many of the elders should be prophets too since hearing God’s voice is so vital in church leadership (A15:32, Hos12:10&13, examples of Jesus/Moses/David), and prophets should be in the heart of the leadership of a church rather than being mavericks on the edge. When the elders lead the church in careful weighing of prophecy then it actually stops prophecy from being despised/given little value (1Th5:19). The lifestyle of a prophet does affect how much his prophecy is valued, but take care not to despise the messenger because of age or experience, because God chooses weak messengers, what is important is His message (1Chr25:8).
o Prophetic ministry requires training and supervision by more experienced prophets who bring through many more prophets (1Chr25:2&7, 2Ki2:3&6:1). Although many can prophesy, some are so gifted beyond the norm that they are given the title and even office of prophet, and they are to lead many through. Some are so gifted that they will travel translocally to strengthen the churches by doing this (Eph 4:11+A11:27-28).
o Some try to argue that in the 21C preaching replaces the need for prophecy. 2Pe2:1 says that AD Gospel preachers are the New Covenant equivalent of Old Covenant prophets, and he treats profhtai and didaskaloi as if they were the same thing, but he does so in a limited way. AD preachers are like OT prophets in that they speak to the people as ambassadors of God, but AD prophets are like OT prophets in the sense of bringing a now-word to the people. If non-charismatics try to argue that preaching=prophecy then they are in real trouble with the clear expectation that women can prophesy freely (1C11:5, A21:9) but not preach (1Ti2:9-15), and with the fact that the NT consistently treats prophets and teachers as distinct from on another (E4:11). This is wilful inconsistency by non-charismatics due to vested interest in thinking this.
o HEALING/DRIVING OUT DEMONS All Christians are given authority to drive out demons and heal sickness, and yet at the same time 1C12 talks about a specific xarisma of healings. The distinction seems to be the same as that between prophesying and being a prophet. All have authority and power to heal to some degree, but some are so gifted in this area as to be said to have the gift of healings. The role of those who have a gift of healings, like the role of the prophet, is to equip and mobilise the whole church into praying for the sick and seeing them saved. They do build up the church by praying for the sick themselves, but there is an Eph 4 equipping element to their gifting too.
o Not every sick person is sick because of their own sin by any means (Jn 9:2), but some are (Jas 5:15-16, 1C11:30). Sickness in general is caused by the curse of the Fall, and it is sometimes linked with demonic oppression (xx). People are demonised is a similar way in which people are filled with the Holy Spirit, the NT uses similar terminology for a person being filled with the Holy Spirit or by an evil spirit, as if there is a spiritual home within each person which can be given to either spirit (A5:3,19:13&16 & Lk22:3). The Bible never uses the term demon-possessed but rather demonised and talks about us driving a demon out from inside a person to outside (A9:40). A Christian can be demonised (xx) just as they can be sick, but through the cross they can be delivered of both. Jesus’ work on the cross bore our sickness as well as our sin (1Pe2:24, Is 53:3-4), he completely undid the curse. Yet at the same time healing is not an automatic “right” as a Christian, sickness was not always healed in the early church (2Ti4:20, Phil2:27) and people took medicines in the early church without seeing it as lack of faith (1Ti5:23).
o There is no set routine for praying for healing/deliverance from demons in the NT. In the Gospels the key elements are xxxxxxxxxxxxx, and in Acts the key elements are i) pray for them (cf also Jas 5:14-15) ii) lay hands on them to impart something from Holy Spirit (tying in with idea of Rock in the Desert and Jesus pouring his Spirit through us and into those we touch) iii) order sickness/demon to go in Jesus’ name iv) proclaim they are healed in Jesus’ name v) help them to their feet. Acts 9:18+22:13 shows us that the NT is not giving us a how-to manual on healing/deliverance, but only mentions some of the detail each time. Perhaps some occasions contained all 5 elements, some a few of them, but all contained at least one of them. Other key factors are faith, sometimes on the part of the sick person, but normally on the part of the ambassador of Christ who does the healing. Another factor mentioned twice is anointing with oil as a sign of the Holy Spirit as the one who comes and heals the person (Jas 5:14-15, Mk 6:13).
o Healings and deliverances are massively powerful in proving that the Gospel message is true (A2:22,14:3, 2C12:12), and we are to pursue them for the sake of the lost so that they might see this proof and believe (H2:1-4). Paul saw a lot of his fruit as being caused by the Holy Spirit healing people through him (R15:18-20), so we must pursue this too. That said, healing is not just an evangelistic tool for non-Christians, they are an expression of God’s love and Kingdom power in the lives of Christians too (A20:12&9:32-33, Jas 5:14-15). We should expect to see Christians healed just as much as non-Christians, and probably more since they have greater faith.
o TONGUES is often the first xarisma which people receive when baptised in the Holy Spirit (A2,10:44-47,19:6). It is not the most important gift since it builds us up rather than building the rest of the church up, but let us not miss the fact that praying in tongues is a wonderful gift to build ourselves up in the Lord. Jude 20 tells us that praying in the Spirit builds us up in the faith. Do it more and more.
o FINANCIAL SHARING (metadidwmi) is mentioned as a xarisma in Rom 12, and is perhaps one of the least honoured xarismata. Paul writes again and again that Christians are to work hard in order to earn enough money to give to those in need (E4:28). The Jerusalem church was full of this koinwnia, and we too need to teach on this gift and its sister xarisma of helps (1C12, R12), particularly since this is one xarisma which Jesus is very likely to want to give to rich Westerners.
o EPHESIANS 4:11 These four kinds of minister have received xarismata to become xarismata to the rest of the Church. Jesus gives apostles, prophets, evangelists and elder/pastor/teachers to the church as gifts to equip the whole church into works of service. These Eph 4 men seem to have a translocal ministry (apostle A8:14, prophet A11:27, evangelist A8:5, teacher A11:26). We see that we need these Eph 4 men operating in every church, either coming in from outside or from within and going outside, and we also see in these four xarismata an important principle which applies to people who have any xarisma – those who have received a xarisma are to train and equip others to step out into that xarisma too, ie someone with a gift of words of knowledge is to lead others into stepping out in words of knowledge, etc.
· Jesus began his ministry on earth 5BC-30AD, but now continues his ministry through Christians / the Church (A1:1, Heb 2:3-4b). Our mission on earth today is the continuation of his ministry on earth, but now through his new Body the Church rather than his physical body which is in Heaven (Jn 20:21). In fact, the word Christian means little Christ and fits in with God’s description of believers in 1Chr 16:22 as “little Messiahs,” and the NT writers consistently apply the Messianic promises of the OT to us in Christ as well as to him (2C6:2, A13:47, Gal 3:29, R10:15).
· To this end Jesus has sent us as his ambassadors (2C5:20, E6:20, 1Th2:4). He has given us e)cousia to issue commands and make requests in his o)noma and for it to be just as if he made the command/request himself because he backs up everything that we say so long as is under his e)cousia. Although sometimes it is helpful to say “in Jesus’ name” as a reminder that we are making a command/request in his authority, it is not necessary each time (A13:11). Nor is it necessary to check with Jesus before issuing a command or request (A3:6) – he has given you e)cousia so use it submissively but very boldly. Do not miss the significance of this – Jesus’ word is infinitely powerful (Is 11:4, Rev 1:16, H4:12-13), even sustaining the whole universe at this very moment (H1:3), and we have been given e)cousia to speak and for our words to be given the same weight and power as his words. This is mind-blowing! Rambabu says “My faith is that if I do what he tells me to do then he will do what he has said he would do.” The name of Jesus is the highest name in the whole universe, wielding e)cousia over every single angel, demon and human (1Pe3:22,H1:1,Phil 2:9-11), and we have been given the authority to use his name.
· We must not therefore be embarrassed to attract attention to ourselves – God’s plan is to glorify us in order to glorify Himself and we had better fall into step with His plan (Gal 1:16&24, 2Th2:14). Purely from a logical point of view, the most common way in which the invisible God reveals Himself to mankind is through dwelling in visible humans and working the sequence people focus on God in us à people then quickly focus on God in us. People need first to see Jesus in us and only then can they see that it is Jesus in us and not us ourselves (A3:3&12, Gal 4:14, 1C11:1, 1Th1:6-8, E3:21). The Bible does not shrink away from saying a Christian can heal someone (A28:8) or save someone (1C9:22&7:16), and so we must not resist the Lord in this. This is His plan, and He will not bless any other plan. He works through humans and not in spite of humans (Zech 7:12).
· Jesus was powerful in teaching and in action not through his inherent divinity but through his being anointed with the Holy Spirit. Since we are his new Body and his ambassadors, he pours out into us exactly the same dunamij through exactly the same Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the dunamij of God (Lk 24:49), He does not simply bring it, and the Gospels give the sense that Jesus was “charged up” with power/the Holy Spirit and that that power went out from him to change the lives of those he touched (Mk 5:30, Lk 6:19, Lk 8:46, Lk 5:17), and Acts gives the same sense of how Christians can be “charged up” with power/the Holy Spirit and that power can go out from us as we touch people (A19:11-12, A9:17, 1 Cor 5:4). This is one reason why the laying on of hands is so important – there is a sense in which we are reservoir into which Jesus pours his dunamij/Holy Spirit and then pours Him out through us as we touch people. Perhaps a better metaphor than a reservoir is that of a drainpipe, because again and again the NT says that Jesus’ plan is to gush forth his Holy Spirit into us (Titus 3:5-6), to flow through us like a drainpipe (Phil 1:19 “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus”, E5:18), and to transform all the world around us by his power. Just as the Rock in the Desert was a type of Jesus who gushed out the dunamij of God to the thirsty world around him (1C10:4), so too the Rock is a type of us too as his new Body, and his plan is to make each one of us like the Rock in the Desert, constantly receiving and constantly gushing out more and more of his dunamij/Holy Spirit to the world around us (1Pe4:11, Jn 4:14, Jn 7:37-39, Phil 4:13, Col 1:29). It therefore goes without saying that we need to stay constantly connected to Jesus and constantly refilled with His dunamij/ Holy Spirit.
· This is the meaning behind the constant theme of the Bible that when we are weak then we are strong. Paul cannot be meaning in 2C12:1-10 that weakness per se = strength since every single human being is weak but not all are strong. He must be saying that Perceived Self-Strength = Weakness but Admission of Weakness = Strength (cf also Is 59:16, Jer 17:5, 1Sa2:9 & Prov 18:23). The Holy Spirit roves around the earth looking for people who are humble enough to know that they are weak so that He can work through them without them trying to steal any of the glory (2Chr16:9+Zech4:10, Zech 4:6, Is 26:12, Hab 2:4), so in some ways this weakness is another word for genuine humility. None of the great men of the OT (Jas 5:17) and none of the great men of the NT (A10:26, A14:15, 2C10:10) were effective because they were naturally strong, but specifically because they humbly recognised their own complete weakness. God does not delight in people being strong (Ps 147:10) but in people admitting their weakness (Is 40:29-31), not in ability but in humility – He actually curses those who rely on their own strength (Jer 17:5) since it is a false God (Hab 1:11) and urges His People to seek not only him but His strength too (1Chr16:11, Is 28:6). This became one of the main reasons Paul rejoiced in trials since they made him more conscious of his weakness and therefore as a result made him stronger! Paul is clear that his massive energy and strength were not his own, but that he received Jesus’ energy through the Holy Spirit working inside of him, and as he was powered by Jesus’ energy he was able to work with superhuman strength (Col 1:28-2:5, 1 Ti1:12, 2Ti2:1, Phil 1:19, Phil 4:13). He learned the secret of not working by intrinsic strength but by extrinsic strength (2Sa22:40), and so have the great Christians of church history, eg Luther writes on this “This happened to me, Martin Luther, who against my will came up against the whole world, and then God helped me.” Of course this does not allow us to be lazy - trying in our own strength leads to burnout, relying simply in His strength is a cop-out, but labouring hard in His strength leads to break-out. Paul gives no indication in Col 1:28-2:5 that he felt Christ’s power as he worked, rather he felt sweat and heard work, but looking back he realised that it was Christ’s power which had been working in him. And do not try to argue that these promises are only for the Pauls or the apostles of the church – Heb 13:7-8 specifically says that these promises are for every generation, and Is 60:22 specifically says that these promises are for every single Christian. God’s plan is to make even the weakest Christian a mighty warrior in Him (Zech 12:8&10:3).
· On this basis, so long as we remain humble and weak then we can have absolute assurance that fruitfulness and the advancement of the Kingdom will follow us everywhere we go (R1:13&15:29). This is not arrogance, in fact lack of confidence is the real sign of arrogance since it reveals that we still rely too much on our own strength and doubt the faithfulness of God to empower us to do all things as He promised (Phil 4:13). Despair (no one can do anything) is as much a symptom of arrogance as pride (I can do something).
· How then do we minister in view of all of this?
i) Firstly we stay very close to Jesus since the depth of our relationship with him is vitally linked to how well we can minister with him – he is our partner in ministry along with the Holy Spirit (1C1:9, Jn 15:26-27), and the closeness of our walk with him is vitally linked to how well we work with him (Mk 3:13-15, A4:13). Satan is like Delilah, wanting only to cut us off from our source of strength. Rambabu “Most of us want to be a shining light bulb but we aren’t willing to be connected to the power supply. If I only had 24 hours left to serve God then I would spend the first 23 hours with Him and only then go.” When we spend time with Jesus we are sharpened by him, and things which would have taken months to bring about happen in an afternoon (Eccl 10:10).
ii) Secondly we make sure that we follow Jesus’ lead as our Master and do nothing outside of his e)cousia (Jn 5:19-20&30). How much we can wield his o)noma/e)cousia depends a lot on how much we submit to His o)noma/e)cousia personally (Mt 8:9, 2Ti2:22, 1Pe3:7, 1Pe3:12, Prov 28:9, Jas 5:16, 1 Tim 2:8, Heb 5:7).
iii) Thirdly we make sure that we do not toil for God in our own strength, but we humble ourselves to let the Holy Spirit work through us as our senior partner. The Lord is most glorified by giving, not by receiving, and by our constant reliance on Him as our only portion (Is 61:3, Jer 51:19). When we stop our striving and let Him work His dunamij/Holy Spirit through us, then he helps us in our tasks by His Holy Spirit in the same way that Martha wanted Mary to help her in her household chores (R8:26+Lk 10:40) and we achieve vastly more. He longs to give us more than enough of His Spirit, He does not mete His dunamij out stingily (Ti3:5-6 & Jn 3:34). To doubt His constant willingness to give is to slander God’s character as being like that of Pharaoh who ordered great tasks but did not give the resources with which to do them (Ex 5:10-11). H6:4-5 promises that one of the blessings which is ours in Christ is to taste the dunameij of the coming age ie the Kingdom of Heaven, and this promise is true for every Christian.
iv) Fourthly we move forward against Satan knowing that he is utterly defeated. He is really a weak spirit who has only held on to his power for so long through deception (Is 14:16). We are not involved in some dualistic struggle of two equals, but Satan is entirely powerless to stand before the Holy Spirit dwelling in us (1Jn4:4). He knows that he has already been defeated and that his time is nearly up (Rev 12:12), his goal is simply to use his remaining time to harm God, and if that is not possible the Church, and if that is not possible individual Christians (Rev 13:6). Satan’s weapons are discouragement before the battle even begins (2Ki 18:19-26), separating us from God by trying to cause God to reject us (Zech 3:1-5) or to fool us that God has rejected us (2Ki 18:19-26), or by keeping us distracted from being with Him (A6:1-7), division of Christian against Christian (2Ki 18:19-26), and failing that then outright force. Rest assured that Satan has no weapon left in his arsenal which he has not already used in history, and we will emerge from the same attacks as our predecessors in similar victory or better (Rev 2:14&2:20). We respond to his attacks by refusing to enter into debate with him, but getting into God’s presence in humility and prayer (2Ki 18:36-19:4). We then go on the offensive to push back what remains of Satan’s already-defeated kingdom on earth, not by shouting at the darkness but by preaching the Kingdom of God (A8:9, A19:37). Paul promises us that this power encounter will be swift and victorious (R16:20).
· We need to balance prayer and action (Neh 4:9, Esth 4:1-4, Esth 4:14, Mt 6:11). Prayer without action is pious irresponsibility. Action without prayer is practical humanism. Often whilst we are crying out to God to work for us, He is crying out for us to act so He can work through us. “The people who know their God will be strong and will work” (Dan 11:32). Nor must we use prayer as an excuse for minimising real threats and taking unnecessary risks (Neh 4:13-23).
· Prayer is enormously powerful because it connects the Omnipotent God with His willing people on Earth. It is so powerful that God is willing to “change His mind” when we pray in intercession (Amos 7:1-9), and when he has really made up His mind to do something he is forced to command His People to stop praying, almost as if prayer is so powerful that unless His People stop praying He will not be at liberty to carry out His purposes of judgment (Jer 7:16&18:20-21). When God tells you to stop praying then you must stop praying (2C12:8) – prayer conforms our will to His Will, not vice versa. It is vitally important that we realise that the Lord has decided only to birth the wonderful plans which He has for the Church through the co-operation of the Church in prayer (Is 62:1&6). Our prayers + the work of the cross + the Holy Spirit à massive effect on earth (Rev 8:3-5), but the Holy Spirit is committed to not applying the work of the cross on earth without our prayers.
· Five Powerful Grounds on Which to Make a Request of God
o Based on God’s Character – (Neh 1:5-11, Neh 9:5-38, Dan 9:4-19) Firstly, the character of God is that He is the God who gives and He is not the God who taunts (Jas 1:5), so we can be assured that He will give us what we ask for (Jn 16:23). Secondly, He is the God who delights to save, not the God who delights to punish, even though He does both (Lam 3:33). Sending people to Hell is God’s permissive will and not His perfect will (1Pe2:8). His character is predisposed towards grace.
o Based on God’s History with us & therefore His Purposes – (Neh 1:5-11, Neh 9:5-38, Dan 9:4-19, 1 Ki 8:46-53)
o Based on God’s Promises to us – (Neh 1:5-11, Neh 9:5-38, Dan 9:4-19, 1 Ki 8:46-53) None of the promises of God are automatic or for our passive waiting, but are meant to stir us to pray them into being (Dan 9:2-3, 2Th2:16-17, E3:14) A helpful formula is God Promises + Man Prays à God Acts. A great example of this is in Acts 4:24-30.
o Based on God’s Reputation with those around us – The Lord’s Name is inextricably linked up with the fortunes of His People (Neh 1:5-11, Neh 9:5-38, Dan 9:4-19). When God is forced to humble His people then He looks weak to the world, but when He is able to raise them up He is held in great awe by the world – He wants to prosper His Church! (R2:24, Is 52:5).
o Based on Confession of sin – Admitting our sin and God’s fairness in judging us is the precursor to receiving blessing since it is an expression of humility & reliance on grace through faith rather than works (Neh 1:5-11, Neh 9:5-38, Dan 9:4-19).
· How to Make A Request of God
o In Jesus’ Name - Jesus has given us his signet ring and royal authority (Hag 2:23) so that any requests we make of the Father it is as if He Himself made them, and any command we give to the powers of darkness it is as if He Himself commanded them. Our prayers do not become powerful only when enough of us join our prayers together, the prayers of one man are enough to revive a nation (Dan 9:17&Joel 1:19-20).
o With Faith – James gives the very important formula Faith + No Prayer à Not Given (4:2). Prayer + No Faith à Not Given (1:6-7). Prayer + Faith à Given (5:15).
o With Boldness – Jesus specifically tells us to pray with a)naideia/shameless lack of reserve (Lk 11:8). God is pleased with big prayers which express big faith in Him, not with small prayers which show small faith in His ability/willingness.
o With Perseverance – Prayers are heard immediately we start praying (Dan 9:23&10:12-13). Persistence in prayer is crucial and many a victory has been lost because people failed to persevere in prayer (2 Ki 13:18-19). Persist too after the battle is fought (1Ki18:42, E1:15-23), since diligent prayer after preaching/sharing is as important as before. Do not allow success around you to cause you to think success is cause and effect – it is not so keep on praying (Col 1:10).
o With Obedient Lifestyle – Our character cannot be divorced from how God receives our prayers (Jas 3:9-10, 1Pe3:7, Prov 28:9, Jas 5:16, 1Ti2:8, Is 1:13). It is not that we earn answers to prayer by our lifestyles – if we did then that would be works and not grace, and Mt 6:12n precludes this possibility anyway – but our ability to use the o)noma of Jesus in making requests before God depends on how much we are truly submitted to his e)cousia in our lives (H5:7, Jn 15:7, 1Jn3:22).
o At All Times – When we have time for a long period in prayer (Mk 1:35), and when we have time only for a very quick “arrow prayer” (Neh 2:4). Paul tells the Romans, Colossians, Thessalonians and Timothy that he is praying constantly for them at all times, night and day (R1:9-10, 2 Tim 1:3, Col 1:3-14, 1Th1:2-3,2:13,3:10,5:16-18). A key part of Jesus’ ministry (Mt 4:2 & Lk6:12) and a key part of Paul’s ministry (2C6:5,A16:9) was fasting and all night vigils. It is good to be steadfastly devoted to prayer (A1:14), and all great men and women of God have been people of great prayer (Is 50:4, Mt 10:27, AWPink “Prayer in private is the source of power in public.”), but many found long extended times of prayer less helpful than short times throughout the whole day.
o With Emotion – There is no virtue in lack of emotion, in fact you will never pray the kind of prayers which move God unless you feel deep emotion for the things for which you pray. The Lord commands us to pray with the same grief as a virgin weeping over her dead fiancée (Joel 1:8), and this is demonstrated Ezra 9:3 & Neh 1:3-4, by Jesus praying with loud crying and tears (H5:7), and by Paul being filled with unceasing great sorrow and intense grief for ethnic Israel, and even wishing himself cut off for them (R9:2-3). The only kind of prayers God answers are up-close and personal (1 Ki 17:19-21).
o In The Spirit – If you have been filled with the Holy Spirit then you will desire to pray since He is the Spirit of supplications (Zech 12:10&Rom 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit longs to find humans who will willingly give their bodies to Him as vessels through whom He can intercede since He has no body of His own – He cannot pray without us, and we certainly cannot pray without Him – this is glorious partnership, like the partnership that Martha wanted Mary to have with her (R8:26+Lk 10:40). The NT talks of Jesus having made a finished work of intercession for us, and the Holy Spirit interceding for/u(per us (R8:26), and so we see that the Holy Spirit brings the finished work of Christ into experience as He prays through us. When we are filled with the Spirit, we pray more not less (A2:42-47), praying in the Spirit both with our minds in our native tongue as inspired by His insight and help, and in tongues. This is a victorious circle:- Filled with the Spirit à Pray More à Filled with the Spirit more à Pray More, etc (Jude 20).
o With Vigilant Observance – One of the ways in which God shows us what to pray for is what we see around us, and one of the ways in which God gives us the emotion and faith to pray is what we see around us. Paul was very observant, and turned what he saw into prayer, eg saw the Gospel bearing fruit all around the world à prayed that this would happen in Colosse too (Col 1:10). Eph 6:18 also tells us to pray observantly.
o Being Specific – Specific prayers are far more powerful than general prayers. Often we pray generally because we are too lazy to think what we really want, or to hear from God what He really wants. Paul gives very specific prayers requests in his letters (R15:30-32, Col 4:3-4, Eph 6:18-20, 2Th3:1-2), and he gives clues that his own prayers were very specific too (Col 1:3-14). These specific prayer include safety, opportunities to share the Gospel, help to be clear in sharing the Gospel, boldness, and success. Note firstly that the NT emphasis on specifics is to pray more for the speakers of the Gospel than the hearers, knowing that if God works through the speakers then the hearers will be saved. Note secondly that Col 4:3-4 and Eph 6:18-20, written at the same time, show that Paul did not give the same prayer requests to the same people, he chose a couple of specific prayer requests for each group of people and spread them around – do not overload people.
o Being Real with God – He is not interested in our pretence but in genuine conversation and heart-to-heart interaction. If you are feeling down, discouraged or plain baffled then say it! (Lam 5, Psalms). Do not think that repetition and volume will move God, they actually anger God because they treat him a slot-machine pagan God (Mt 6:7-8) who can be manipulated by our works. Our best prayers are filthy rags in God’s sight, and are only acceptable through the blood of Jesus (Neh 9:5, Rev 8:3-5, 1Pe2:5), so the thought that enough prayer might manipulate God is highly blasphemous. Our prayers are to be conversations, not recitations, and not focused on our name and will but on His Name and Will (Mt 6:9-10). Your prayers do not impress God, and whatever you do, do not seek to impress other people with your praying either – God detests this religious pride (Mt 6:6).
· How Should We Pray? Mt 6:9-13 is a model of how we should pray and not what we should pray:- i) Begin with confident entrance into God’s presence as Father, not with cringing ii) Next glorify His Name with worship rather than rushing into your own needs iii) Next pray that God’s Kingdom will come, ie focus on Kingdom priorities in prayer before personal priorities iv) Next pray for your own needs v) Next confess your sins and ask for forgiveness vi) Next ask for protection from the evil one. This is a helpful structure for us in our praying.
· Preaching is hugely important. Preaching is out of vogue at the moment in favour of other forms of media, but God’s chosen means for building His Kingdom is the preaching of the truth (Is 61:1). Revival and the preaching of God’s Word are always inextricably linked in the Bible (eg 2Chr17, Jer 23:22), and if we pray for revival but neglect preaching the Word then we are living in unreality. A word from the Lord communicated through one of his ambassadors is enough to transform a life (Is 35:3-7) and to break down the strongest spiritual stronghold in someone’s heart (2C10:3-5), and so verbal communication of biblical truth from the pulpit and one-on-one is indispensable. In fact, the Paul does not give Timothy any advice on how to attract large numbers to church, he simply tells him to preach God’s Word faithfully and well and people will come (2Ti4:3). The Gospel is information to be received by faith and therefore requires clear verbal proclamation, explanation and application – both 2Ti3:15 & H4:2 give the same equation Knowledge + Faith in that Knowledge à Salvation. Of course preaching by the power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee salvation (cf Noah in 2 Pet 2:5), but we live in an age where God is committed to saving multitudes and leading them to maturity, unlike God’s plan in Noah’s age.
· What you believe dictates what you do. The contents of the heart/mind dictate the actions of the body (Prov 4:23,Jude 4). Put another way, Heterodoxy à Heteropraxy, but Orthodoxy à Orthopraxy. Put still another way, Corrupted Mind à Corrupted Actions, but Good Mind à Good Actions (R1:28). Church leaders must not complain about the actions of their church and throw their hands up in despair. Christians do not know how to live unless they are taught in detail how to live (Amos 3:10, Hos 4:3&14), and when a church fails to live right it is usually due to not being taught right, and it is the leaders of the church who are guilty before God of murder (Hos 6:9&4:4-9). The way to change people’s actions is by changing their thinking by exposure to truth (Ti1:1), which is why preaching is so important. Remember also not to preach for people to change their fruit which is external righteousness and tends to lead to legalism, but to preach for people to change their root which is internal, works through the Holy Spirit, and tends to lead to external godliness as a by-product of internal change anyway.
· Preaching ability is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit which is ours through our union with Jesus through his cross (1C1:4-5,1Sa3:19). Peter treats New Covenant preachers as the equivalent of Old Covenant prophets in the sense that they are ambassadors of God to bring God’s word to a people at a particular time (2Pe2:1), and therefore needing the anointing of the Holy Spirit to perform their task. On one level this is hugely encouraging. Since even Paul was accused of being a poor preacher (2C10:10) but was hugely effective due to his anointing, we see that God can use anyone who accepts their own weakness and lets God be God through them as they preach – even us! On the other hand this is very sobering. If you have not been anointed by the Lord to preach then woe betide you if you attempt to do that which God has not anointed you to do. Finally, this knowledge causes us to be very prayerful both before and after we preach (1Ki18:42, E1:15-23) since we are dependent on God as we prepare the message and as people apply the message.
· The Word preached must be combined with Faith by the Hearer to be of any use. Both H4:2&2Ti3:15 give the same equation of Knowledge + No Faith à Useless, but Knowledge + Faith à Salvation. Faith is not an abstract thing which falls or does not fall into our laps (2Th1:3), it is something which is engendered by the Holy Spirit in our hearts as we are exposed to the Word of God (R10:17). Nor is the size of our faith something on which we have no control, our faith should keep growing after salvation as we are more and more exposed to God’s Word. Preaching is therefore defined as explaining the truth from God’s word, and exhorting the hearers through a variety of means to receive this truth with active faith.
· Our preaching must include proofs in order to build faith in people’s hearts. Since we know that knowledge is useless unless it is combined with faith, we do not simply shout the truth of the Bible more and more loudly or exhort ever more strongly, we prove it with facts, reason and logic (A1:3). Faith is generated by facts (Jn 20:31) – supremely the resurrection of Jesus through which God furnishes faith for us (Acts 17:31), but also the life and teaching of Jesus (Jn 5:36), miracles (A2:22), personal testimonies (2Pe1:16-18,Rev12:11), and experience of the Holy Spirit. None of these proofs guarantee salvation, not even miracles, and people can be saved without any miracles (A8:36), but a Gospel preach which does not include the resurrection as proof is weakened by its absence. Choose the right proofs - people need tailored proof as well as tailored truth.
· Our preaching must be logical and well-reasoned. God presents his case against Judah with the devastating logic of a top barrister (eg Jer 2:9-12), and whether speaking to believers or unbelievers, He shows that their current actions fly in the face of common sense (Is 1:5). Peter tells us that those who reject the Gospel do so precisely because they ignore the facts (2Pe3:5), and we must force our hearers to face that facts and to see logically that going any way other than God’s way is stupid. The NT writers anticipate objections before they arise and deal with them (eg R3:5-8), and we must do so too. People reject the Gospel either because they do not understand (ie the mind) or because they are not willing to respond to it (ie the will), so we must preach in such as way as to fill in the gaps of understanding so that we can then press the will for a response (Is 1:3&4). Note the comments made in the section on Evangelism, that we must never appeal to people’s worldly wisdom and priorities, but to spiritual wisdom and priorities which people will only embrace if God regenerates them – if people are “saved” through you then you need to keep them, but if people are truly saved by God then you can have confidence that He will keep them (Phil 1:6). This is the sense of 1C2:6-16 in the light of Col 1:28 & 2Pe3:15, that we preach logically so that the rebellious are exposed as rebellious and not merely ignorant, but with an appeal to God-centred motives which will only be received by the hearer if the Lord regenerates their Spirit and enables them to desire to do that which God wants.
· Do not simply preach to the head but also to the heart since emotions are very powerful. Elijah appealed to the mind, conscience, emotions of Israel (1Ki18:30), and so must we. Vivid action, pictures and illustrations capture people’s imaginations far better than mere words (Jas 1:6n, A21:11, Ezra 9:6&8, Mal 2:16,3:2-3,4:1, & Amos 8:9). Use humour as a brilliant way not only to keep people engaged but also to open them up to the message since humour relaxes a person and makes them more open to new truths. Don’t feel you have to be politically correct in this (Gal 5:12). Use tears just as Paul did when he spoke about Hell (Phil 3:18, A20:31), because preachers such as George Whitefield found that their tears in preaching about Hell were more effective in winning people than their words themselves. Use dream-casting of a positive picture of the future if only they do what you are urging them to do (NB positive dream-casting is far more effective than negative dream-casting). Use name-calling and threats as part of your arsenal (Jas 4:4-10,H10:26-39). Many things are forgivable in a preacher, but stuffiness or over-intellectualism is not one of them.
· Do not simply preach to the head and heart but also to the conscience since this is a great ally in all preaching. People generally think that they are doing well until they hear God’s standards/Law, and then when they see themselves in the light of His standards their conscience is often pricked and they know they need to change (R3:19&7:7, Neh 8:9). Even when someone does not know God’s standards, when we start mentioning them, they connect with his own shabby standards (Hos 5:5, A24:25) and with his conscience, and he gets closer to repentance.
· Do not simply preach to the head, heart and conscience, but also to the will. God Himself makes an appeal at the end of Haggai (Hag 2:18-19), and the principle of making an appeal is very biblical since setting one’s heart to a specific course of action precedes any new action (Dan 1:8, 2Chr 12:14, A11:23). The first principle is that we seek to move the person’s will to action, but not to override their will – if we force someone into “converting” before they are ready then we cause all sorts of trouble. We press hard enough that those who are ready will act, but not so hard that those who are not ready will act. The second principle is that we should never assume unwillingness to respond on the part of the hearers, but willingness. Firstly, it is an attitude of faith, since according to our faith will it be to us, and having preached the khrugma we should have faith-filled confidence that the Holy Spirit is saving people through hearing it (Neh 8:12). Secondly, it is much more effective in winning people (H10:39, A22:2). Remember that people reject the Gospel not for intellectual reasons but for moral reasons, refusing to love the truth because it is morally inconvenient. As a result God sends them a powerful delusion so that they really do believe intellectually what their perverse heart wanted to believe for moral reasons (2Th2:10-12, Jn5:40). Your aim in an preaching and making an appeal is to convince everyone that what you are explaining is true, and for those who are willing to be saved to be saved there and then, and those who are unwilling to be saved to go home in no delusion as to the fact that they are rebels vs the truth.
· Other miscellaneous advice – Be Spirit-led & flexible in your preaching, always willing to stop and change direction / heal someone etc as the Spirit leads (A14:9-10). The aim is not delivery of a speech but to bring the hearers into the encounter with God which He has planned for them. Be concise and clear like Paul who often left out brilliant points which he had made elsewhere in order to keep his message as simple as possible (R4:1-15n). Less can be more! Quote Scripture in an unpedantic way seeking to convey the true sense of the passage as God spoke/speaks it rather than absolute semantic accuracy, just like the NT writers (H8:9n), and do not be pedantic about giving references to all your references (H2:6). Nitpicking analysis of the Greek/Hebrew makes for dull preaching. Say “us” in your preaching rather than “you” (Is 2:5) since you are part of the flock too and this is far more winsome.
TWO TYPES OF PREACHING
1. PREACHING TO NON-CHRISTIANS
· The main content of this kind of preaching is the Gospel. Do not preach all xv points in one preach as you will overwhelm people. Rather, by observation and conversation find out beforehand what the listeners think. Your aim is to change that thinking in the knowledge that orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy, and that a major obstacle to non-Christians being saved is lack of knowledge (Ps 51:13). Having understood the basic thinking of the hearers then knit together/sumbibazwn (A9:22 and see Evangelism notes) a preach along the following lines:-
i. Start with their current thinking. Get them saying “yes, yes” to you early on as you form a connection with their current beliefs and their current needs. One good way to do this is by referring to the authors, newspapers, films and music which they enjoy (A17:28 & Ti1:12) or through the shared stories, history and proverbs of those people (Jude 9&12).
ii. As you knit together their current beliefs and needs, show them the validity of what is good in their current thinking, but also show them contradictions which there are in their current thinking and the ways in which their beliefs do not fit together coherently when knitted together. Open up fully the significance and logical conclusions of what they believe and compare it with other things that they believe (A17:2-3), and in doing so show them gaps in their beliefs and major gaps in their ability to meet their real needs.
iii. Now communicate the Gospel is such a way that it is obvious that it plugs the missing gaps in their beliefs and offers the solution to their real needs. This may only include the 2 or 3 most relevant points of the xv, but keep the message focused on Jesus and on Jesus as the only answer to their needs. Note that this knitting does not mean stressing what you believe in common and avoiding areas of contention. Rather, the apostles knitted together their hearers’ beliefs and asked them questions so as to confront their areas of wrong thinking head on, emphasising the main areas where current beliefs differ from Gospel (A17:22-32). Being “seeker-friendly” does not mean trying not to offend unbelievers, it means understanding the language and beliefs of unbelievers so well that by the time you have finished speaking they are in absolutely no doubt that they should be offended! We are to confront hypocrisy head on (Mt 3:7, Is 58:2), and to make it clear to people that we do not consider them to be saved but condemned (Jn 5:34). Gospel preachers are to stress how far people are from salvation unless they make a major U-turn, not how near to salvation they are. We are to confront strongholds of wrong thinking head on, as the only way to break them down (R5:20,Prov21:22,2C10:4-5). If people are merely interested by your preaching but not mad or glad then you are not preaching strongly enough against their entrenched wrong thinking. The job of a preacher to non-Christians or to Christians is a confrontational job, and if you are too fearful to confront people then the job is not for you (Jer 6:14).
iv. Finally call for a response. Having shown logically that their thinking does not add up, but that Jesus does add up and he is the answer to their needs, press home the fact that the only reason they would not now convert is that they are rebels vs the truth and do not want to believe the truth, even though they know it is the truth (Jn 5:40).
· These are the principles and there are three distinct styles of preaching the Gospel in this way to unbelievers in Acts:-
· To an Open and Interested Unbeliever who simply wants to know what to do to be saved – Start with what they do know and simply fill in the gaps about the life, person and finished work of Jesus à Having filled in the knowledge gaps call them to add faith to the knowledge and be saved.
· General Gospel Preach to a mix of open and less open people – Starts with the hearers’ own questions/interests à knit together what they believe and emphasise what is good à Speak forcefully against what they believe which is bad, showing that they are incoherent and fail to meet their needs whereas Jesus is coherent and meets their needs à Explain any outstanding content of Gospel which you still need to touch on the themes of Law/guilt/separation from God/being in the kingdom of darkness/coming judgment à Call for a response in faith, often with a winsome conciliatory tone.
· Testimonial Gospel Preach to a mix of open and less open people – Start by emphasising that you were like them in beliefs and needs but that you saw that your beliefs were incoherent and did not meet your needs à Explain your encounter with Jesus and how that rearranged/changed your beliefs to be coherent and met your needs fully à Call for them to respond in faith and to receive Jesus too.
2. PREACHING TO CHRISTIANS
· Preaching to Christians is not much different to preaching to non-Christians, when done effectively. Firstly, the message should still be the Gospel. The Gospel is the message of God to mankind, the Christian life is entering deeper and deeper into the Gospel, not advancing beyond the Gospel. If any message to Christians is not focused around the cross as the only answer to a particular issue then it has gone adrift. Secondly, messages to Christians should be needs-based just like messages to non-Christians. People are interested in what meets their needs, the only difference for Christians is that they are now focused on spiritual needs rather than worldly needs. We preach the God who supplies all our needs through the cross (Phil 4:19). Thirdly, we still need to begin by knitting together what they already believe and moving them forward. Paul reasoned/dialegomai with Christians in his preaching and not just with non-Christians (Acts 20:7&9), and God reasons with us through His Word (Heb 12:5), and so therefore should we. The principles for preaching to Christians are:-
i. Start with their current thinking. Get them saying “yes, yes” to you early on as you form a connection with their current beliefs and their current needs. You can do this by referring to the authors, newspapers, films and music which they enjoy just as with a preach to non-Christians, but primarily you do this by referring to a passage or theme in the Bible. Make sure that you start your reasoning from Scripture rather than trying to use the Bible to back up your own thoughts (Neh 8:8), and make sure that you always use Scripture to back up your arguments, being specific in what the Bible says rather than merely using generalities (2Ti4:1-2).
ii. As you knit together their current beliefs and needs, a large part of your preaching should be reminding them of what they believe. We Christians tend to forget truths, and one of the main roles of a preacher is to keep on reminding the people of what they already know (Phil 3:1, 2Pet1:12, 2Ti2:14). We then need to show people how this contradicts worldly thinking, and how they are to reject certain aspects of their culture’s thinking, since it is not plain to the average Christian that this contradiction exists until a preacher emphasises it. We also need to open up fully the significance and logical conclusions of these truths so that they can see exactly what this means for their life, eg the cross deals not just with my sin but my condemnation and my struggles in parenting too.
iii. Now the Christian hearers are ready for new information or concepts from Scripture to add to their existing thinking. Beware of “new” teaching, which is almost certainly bound to be wrong (Jude 3), but there is plenty of old biblical teaching which will be new to the hearers and will transform their life. Do not go off into biblical cul-de-sacs and distractions which will not transform anyone’s life, keep the message focused on the Gospel of the cross of Jesus, which will never be exhausted. Confront wrong thinking in Christians head on too – the context of 2C10:4-5 is actually about preaching to Christians and not to non-Christians! Part of the preacher’s job is to confront the church and to risk being hated by them too. This kind of internal disapproval, people gossiping against you, and even leaving the church is the hardest type of opposition to bear, but it is the role of the church leader to do this – see 2 Cor/Gal/Heb for examples of this.
iv. Finally, make clear application, since the average Christian does not find it easy to make the jump from what the Bible says to what I need to do, and it is the role of the preacher to help them in that (Neh 8:8). Make clear application, and make just as clear an appeal for Christians to respond to the message of the Gospel for their lives as you would for non-Christians to do so. The Gospel is for Christians as well as for non-Christians, and when a Christian refuses to respond to the Gospel in a specific area of his life then he is in real trouble. Your role as preacher is to use everything at your disposal through the Holy Spirit to make sure he responds to the Gospel.
· Given the immense similarity between true biblical preaching to Christians and to non-Christians (same Gospel, same method, just different starting points and ending points), it becomes clear that the presumed dichotomy between preaching to Christians and preaching to non-Christians is more apparent than real. Every preach to Christians should contain life-changing challenge for non-Christians, and every preach to non-Christians should contain life-changing challenge to Christians. Therefore we should make sure that we preach every time something for Christians and something for non-Christians, and that we make sure that our church members know in their hearts that “no matter who is preaching today and what the topic, I know that there will be something for my non-Christian friend,” and as a result they invite many friends to normal church meetings week in week out.
A CHURCH’S PREACHING PLAN
· We are never going to cover all of the content of God’s Word in one week, one month or even one year, but if we believe that orthopraxy leads to orthodoxy and heterodoxy leads to heteropraxy then we need to give very careful attention to the content of our preaching each month and each year to ensure that the preaching content for the year is the balanced message of Scripture. One way to do this is by looking at all xv aspects of the Gospel and ensuring that all of these are covered, but these are not an exhaustive list of the contents of Scripture, the Gospel unpacked is far bigger than the focused contents of those xv points (eg how the cross of Jesus helps me to parent, how the cross of Jesus helps me to lead a cell group). Another way is to preach through books of the Bible so that you preach what Scripture brings up rather than what you personally want to emphasise, but the danger there is that the choice of books can themselves be unbalanced and of course each preach will read some of their own priorities into a passage rather than the absolute priority of that passage. One alternative method suggested by Rick Warren is to divide the message of the Bible into 5 areas – i) non-Christians becoming Christians ii) Christians growing in knowing, loving and worshipping God devotionally iii) Christians becoming godly in character and knowledge iv) Christians ministering to other Christians in the church v) Christians ministering to non-Christians outside of the church, and building all teaching programmes around those five areas so that no area gets neglected.
· One of the areas of teaching which tends to be neglected by the church in the West seems to be how the rich should handle wealth (1Ti6:6-10,6:17-19 & Jas 5:1-6), eg still relying on God and not on money, sharing rather than hoarding in order to gain future reward not future judgment – typically there is more teaching to the poor on avoiding debt than to the rich in handling wealth, yet we live in some of the wealthiest societies in human history.
· New Covenant Christians are saved through Jesus’ complete obedience to the Mosaic Law, but they themselves are not under the Mosaic Law. Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law for us (Mt 5:17-20) and in doing so he cancelled it as a Law for us (Col 2:14-17). Christians are completely free from the Law of Sinai, but they are under the Law of Christ (Gal 6:2, 1C9:21). This Law of Christ is also known as the Law of Love or the Law of the Kingdom (Jas 2:8), and all of the NT writers agree that Christians are no longer under the Mosaic Law but under this Law of Love which fulfils the Law (Gal 5:14, R13:8-10, 1Jn3:23-24, Jas 2:8, 1Ti 1:5, 1Pe 4:8, Mt 5:17-20) All of the NT teaching on Christian character comes not out of appeal to OT commands but out of appeal to our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven and that true children of the Kingdom will live like the King through the in-working power of the Holy Spirit. This Law of Love is twofold – love the Lord with all your being and love those around you as much as you love yourself (Mt 22:36-40). If we do this, then we fulfil the whole OT Law and more anyway!
· We need to understand that since the requirements of the Law of Love vastly exceed the merely external rules of the Mosaic Law (Mt 5-6), and that since no one was able to fulfil even that external Law (Col 1:8), this Christian character is only possible through the in-working power of the Holy Spirit (1Jn4:7,10&19, 2Chr30:12). Paul does not say that he loves like Christ, but that he loves with Christ’s own love, ie as he was filled with the Holy Spirit he felt Christ’s own love in his heart and loved people with that love (Phil 1:8, R5:5). This Law of Love is not a new set of even tougher rules for us to strive to keep in our own strength, sanctification is through the finished work of Jesus on the cross as applied by the Holy Spirit inside of us, just like justification, and so this is a commitment that the Holy Spirit will work in us as we partner with Him to make us holy and loving just like Jesus.
· We need also to understand that not only is the love described in 1C13 impossible unless the Holy Spirit works it in us, so too all of the best planning/strategy/labour/eager desire in the world is not worth one thing unless we do it with this love (1C13:2-3). God is at least as concerned about HOW we do church as He is about WHAT we do (and probably more concerned). God is love and love is vital. Therefore so is baptism in the Holy Spirit since it is the only way in which we can love this love.
1) LOVE THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR BEING (Mt 22:37)
· PEACE Worry is self-reliance and is a sin (Mt 6:25), whereas reliance on God brings peace since the great antidote to worry is trusting in God and throwing all our anxieties onto Him to deal with (1Pe5:7, Phil 4:6-7). Christians are not to fear what the world fears because we know the Sovereign God (1Pe 3:15). A Christian’s peace transcends all understanding because it is based on the faithfulness of God in spite of circumstances. It then becomes a way in which the Holy Spirit is able to guide us as an umpire on debatable issues (Col 3:15).
· CONTENTMENT God is the great Provider and loves to satisfy us entirely as our Portion (Is 61:3, Jer 51:19). Christians should be utterly content because everything we need is already ours in Christ (1C3:18-23), and discontent/e)piqumia/ jealousy/coveting/lust expresses a dissatisfaction with God’s provision for us and is a demonically-inspired emotion (Jas 3:15). Lust for women/possessions/position is never satisfied, there is not a better wife or a better life out there (Jer 5:8), this is just the deceitfulness of wealth (Mt 13:22, Esth 3:5, Hab 2:5). Contentment/au)tarkeia is a musthrion into which we need God to initiate us (Phil 4:11-12) because this is the key to joy in all circumstances and to the key Christian characteristic of thankfulness for what we do have. God wants us to enjoy life (1Ti6:17) – kill-joy Christianity is fake Christianity, Christians should be characterised by having more fun than anyone else – but He wants us to look to Him for all we need to enjoy life (Phil 4:19) rather than to Money as an alternative means of security and provision (H13:5-6, Mt 6:24). Wealth and luxury have great power to corrupt (Rev 18:4, 1Ti6:3-10), and many people have sold their honesty for money (1Ki21:20). As a result, contentment/ not loving money is the only qualification for church elders mentioned in all four passages in 1Ti, Titus & 1Pe. As for sexual sin, Christians should be totally pure from sexual sin both before and after marriage (H13:4).
· JOY Christians are to be the most joyful people on the surface of the planet (Mt 5:3-11) due to the fact that their happiness is found in the Lord and not in circumstances (E5:20). Dour Christianity is a contradiction in terms. Gloominess is the sign of false religiosity (Mt 6:16). Christians are to defy their circumstances because they are of another place (Is 53:2). In fact, joy in the Lord is what makes Christians strong (Neh 8:10). Christians are joyful in trials since:-
i) We know that Faith + Trials à Perseverance à Maturity + Completeness + Ruling Forever (Jas 1:3-4&12). Trials grow character in us, and character means that the Lord can entrust us with more, so we rejoice in trials because we know that the net result will be gain not loss (R5:3-4, H12:11, A14:22). This is particularly true when we look back on the trials of Christians before us and on our own past trials and see how this has already happened (Jas5:10-11, 2Th1:5-10).
ii) Trials cause us to realise our own weakness and therefore grow closer to Jesus in relationship and in reliance on his strength. Therefore Trials à Conscience of Weakness à Strong à Gain (2C12:1-10, 2Th1:5-10).
iii) Trials increase our faith when we emerge out of the other side (1Pe1:7, 2C1:8-11) which in turn assures us of greater reward in the future. Smith Wigglesworth – “Great faith is a product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come after great trials.”
iv) We know that My Trials à I Receive Comfort from God à I am Able to Comfort Others later (2C1:4-7). We see that in our trials we are being prepared to build up the Church more and more later.
v) We know that trials are necessary to push back the kingdom of darkness and to advance the Kingdom of God / the Church, so we know that on the other side of our back-breaking trial we will see a harvest (Jas 5:7, 2Th1:5-10). People who live the lifestyle which results in people being saved get persecuted, so we rejoice in our persecution that it shows we are living evangelistically effective lives (2Ti3:12, Lk 6:23&26). We also know that since people get saved by seeing our love and good deeds, and that this character is seen most clearly when we are under pressure, so we rejoice that we are never more effective evangelistically than when we are going through trials (1Pe3:14-16).
vi) We know the end of the story! Jesus has won and he is coming again soon (Jas 5:7-11, 2Th1:5-10). Paul’s antidote to trials is always eschatology, and it is the vital backbone of any Christian under trial, as we realise that our present trials simply do not correspond to the amazing glory which awaits us (1C15:58, 2C4:17, R8:18). If we cave in under trials then we know that we will miss out on some of the reigning with Christ which should be our (2Ti2:12, 2C5:10, Mt10:33), but if we persevere under trial then it increases our reward in Heaven (Mt 5:11-12 & Lk6:23).
vii) We know that Christians across BC & AD history have always gone through trials and persecution as part of God’s plan, and therefore we feel a sense of koinwnia with saints past and present. We are not alone (2Th1:5-10, Lk 6:23&26)!
viii) We know that God is glorified by our faithful endurance. We know He often leaves deliverance from trials right up to the last moment so as to glorify His Name all the more (1Sa23:26-27). We care more for His Glory than our comfort.
The first five of these reasons are therefore that we realise that trials are necessary and work for our good, not our loss (R8:28), and the final three reasons are that we see the big picture. We must teach these seven reasons to our churches, from the newest convert to the oldest elder. Paul saw these as part of his core syllabus for new converts (1 Thessalonians).
· FAITHFULNESS On one level this means stability/steadfastness/perseverance since those who truly love the Lord are not shaken by the ups and downs of life or by the dangers which come with tiredness/relaxation (H12:3). The Lord hates recklessness (Jer 23:32, Is 35:4) and loves faithfulness/reliability. On the other hand it also means having faith as below.
· FAITH is not the same as optimism or hoping for the best. Faith is specifically believing in the promise of God because of the character of God, believing that whatever the circumstances, God does not lie and will fulfil His promise (H11:11). Hope without a promise is presumption and not faith (R4:19-21). Faith is true worship of God because it shows that we really believe in Who He is despite all circumstances (1Sa19:26, Ti 1:2), and lack of faith or cowardice is hugely serious, robbing us of salvation (Rev 21:8, Jude 5) or of Kingdom advance which God longs to give us (H3:19). One aspect of faith then is courage which is to be a key characteristic of all Christians (2Ti1:7). Faith is so important that God tells us that if we are serving Him in an area without faith then we please Him as little as if we were actively sinning (2Th1:11) – in church life people who do not have faith for an area in which they are serving need to get faith for it or get out of it quickly, and into an area which they do have faith for. Note that faith is not some abstract thing which God either drops in our lap or does not drop in our lap. God does allot us faith as a gift of grace (2Pe1:1), but he does so as we study the Word of God (R10:17), as we look at facts and proof (Jn 20:31, A17:31), and as we step out in small faith with the little faith he has already given us (1Sa17:37). Faith is like a muscle, which grows with use and wastes away with disuse, and every Christian should be growing more and more in faith as they exert the faith they have more and more.
· OBEDIENCE This is very closely linked to faith since true faith results in obedience (Jas 2:17) and disobedience reveals that we lack true faith (H4:6&11). It is also very closely linked to love since obedience shows that we truly love God and disobedience shows that we do not truly love God (2Jn5-6). It is also very closely linked to fear of the Lord since fear of the Lord results in obedience (Ex 20:20, 1Chr 21:30, Jer 32:40). Virtue does not exist outside of God, virtue is simply doing whatever God says, so that if he tells you not to have pity on someone then pity is a vice, and if He tells you to kill then killing is a virtue (1Sa15:3). Obedience to God is the supreme virtue, far above patriotism or even obedience to conscience (Jer 21:9, Gen 22), far above tolerance (Is 2:6), and far more valuable than religious ceremony or offering (1Sa15:22-23). Finally, God also states that delayed obedience is disobedience (1Sa15:15), and lax/partial obedience is disobedience (Jer 48:10). Obey God straight away, entirely and without questioning, even when the command seems strange (Is 20:2-3, Hos 1:2-3, Hos 10:12).
· SELF-CONTROL This is impossible by ourselves, but is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), as the Holy Spirit frees us from slavery to our bodies and our moods, so that we can live disciplined lives of sober self-control (1Ti3:2&11). James teaches strongly about the importance specifically of having a controlled tongue (Jas 3:1-12), and Paul tells us to avoid debt where possible and to get out of it where possible. The Bible is very clear that we should not get drunk on alcohol, but to be filled with the Holy Spirit which is far better (E5:18, Is 28:7-8).
· PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME The greatest desire of a Christian should be that we want God’s Name to be glorified, at whatever cost to ourselves (Is 26:8). This is not just seen by how loudly we sing but by what we do for His Name and whether we are willing to be suffer with Him and lose our name so that His Name might be glorified (Heb 13:11-14). God hates complacency in His People and detests it particularly in His leaders, when they are busy about their own name and have grown accustomed to His Name being despised (Is 21:5, Amos 6:1-7, Zeph 1:12). Passion for God’s Name leads to humility (below) and obedience (above). One example would be that Christians only marry Christians, since if we are living our whole life with God’s glory as our number one aim, it is impossible that we should be yoked to a non-Christian who has a totally different aim (2C6:14, 1C7:39). Passion for God’s name also leads to worshipping.
· HUMILITY This is the sense of prau+thj/meekness which the NIV translates gentleness in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), and it is a direct fruit of having passion for God’s Name. When we realise who we are before God then it leads to us being humble. Firstly Christians are devoid of selfish ambition for their own name, since this is a demonically-inspired emotion (Jas 3:15), and is totally unfitting for those who love God’s Name alone. God’s promise and the example of Scripture again and again is that if you are humble and only seek God’s Name then God will bless you and personally see to your promotion anyway, whereas if you are proud and seek your own advancement then God will oppose you and personally see to your demotion (Jas 3:18&4:6, 1Pe5:6-9, Mt 5:3-12, Gen 11&12, Esth 5:17-8:15, 1Sa2:30,15:12, 2Sa7:9,18:18, 1Chr14:17). Do not seek position but character (1Chr1:10, 2Ki24:14-16n). Be willing to associate with lowest classes and do the lowest jobs out of pure love for God’s Name alone (R12). Christians should be devoid of factionalism & denominationalism too since this is simply an expression of selfish ambition within a church or for a group of churches (1C4:6) – the only reason we should want our churches to grow is so that we can give away more and more and God’s Name be glorified within the whole Church. Christians should also be devoid of boasting, since God detests people who boast (1Jn2:16).
· PRAYERFULNESS shows real humility, since it shows we depend on the Lord and look only to His strength, whereas prayerlessness is a symptom of hidden pride, saying tacitly that we believe we can get by without God’s help (cf Is 30:15,18)
2) LOVE THOSE AROUND YOU AS MUCH AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF (Mt 22:39)
· LOVE FOR THE CHURCH God is not pleased with Christians who fix their eyes on Jesus but not on their fellow Christians in order to help them (H10:24). The mark of a real Christian is giving yourself first to the Lord and second to God’s People (2C8:5). God wants us to be as attentive to fixing our eyes on our fellow Christians and to provoking them to love and good deeds, and we are to fixing our eyes on Jesus himself. To some extent Jesus is our fellow Christians (Acts 9:4, 1C8:12), and they are his Body, so our attitude towards the church is indivisible from our attitude towards him (1Jn2:7-11, Mt 25:31-46). God loves the church passionately (Zech 2:7,3:17), and wants us to love the Church as much as He does (1Pe2:17, Gal 4:26). Love for one another is the absolute foundation of Church life (E3:17), we become something together as a church which we are not individually as Christians (E2:21-22, 2C6:16, 1C3:16-17), and anyone who claims to be saved but has no desire to join a church is very deluded (E2-3, 1Sa26:19). Not to be present at church meetings is to swindle the rest of the church of what only you can offer (R12:5), and to weaken the church as a Body (Col 2:2, 1C12).
· LOVE/a)gaph The love which the NT writers describe as the characteristic of Christians towards others is so different from earthly love that they used a relatively unused word to describe it. It is not a good version of the world’s love, it is God’s own love which can only be produced by the Holy Spirit working it out through us (1Jn4:7,10&19, Phil 1:8, R5:5), and therefore we can love the less loveable as well as the easily-loveable (Phil 1:8) without favouritism (Jas 2:1-4). It means not just not doing bad to people which you would not want them to do to you, but doing all the good to them you would want someone to do to you (Mt 7:12, Lk 6:31). This means seeking the good of others before yourself (1C13), carrying one other’s burdens and not just looking after yourself (Gal 6:2, E5:31), genuinely caring for the issues in their lives as much as your own (R12:15), for example when one Christian is in prison or persecuted all of the Church should feel the pain as if it were they themselves suffering (H13:3, Mt 25:39-40, 1C12:26), and certainly not gossiping about them (Dan 6:24). If Christians are known for only one thing, it should be their radical selfless love for one another (1Jn 3:16 + Jn 3:16), and this should be seen by what they do but also by their warm greetings to one another, which should be full of pure physical affection and much more friendly than the greetings of those who are in the world (1C16:20,Rom 16:16, 2 Cor 13:12, 1 Thess 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14). That said, we should not show this radical selfless love only to Christians, but also to non-Christians too (1Th5:15). Being on the receiving end of this undeserved love is one of the main ways in which they will see the truth of the Gospel and be saved (Jn 13:35).
· PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY Part of this love is not only doing good to help others, but also looking after your own needs so that you can spare them the need to bear your burdens for you. The command to love is not so that we can demand love from others as a right, but so that we will gladly give up our rights and seek not to be a burden on anyone. The command to bear other people’s burdens is immediately followed by a command to bear your own burden so that others do not have to (Gal 6:2&5). Paul says that Christians who put more into the church than they take out live fruitful lives but those who take more out of the church than they put in are fruitless (Ti3:13), and worse than an unbeliever (1Ti5:8) He adds that one of the ways in which non-Christians will be saved is by seeing Christians living responsible lives themselves and not meddling in other people’s lives (1Th4:11-12).
· EVERYDAY LIFE God refuses to compartmentalise our lives as we do – sin at work or in the family is just as much sin as sin in our free time (Col 3:17, Amos 8:4-6, Mal 2:10-16, 1Pe3:7, E6:5-9, Jer 34:12-22, Mt 5:21-26)! Our Christian lives should be worked out in exemplary living in all areas of life:- Education Christians should study diligently to get as good a secular education as possible, helping you to communicate clearly to people within your culture and opening doors for future opportunities to serve God (Dan 1:4) Workplace Be willing to work for almost any secular employer, there are very few taboo jobs (Dan 5:11). Your secular work is where God trains you for ministry (A19:22+R16:23) and also often the place where God uses you for ministry (Neh 1:11). Obey your boss as one serving the Lord and not just when they are looking, and obey them as a child obeys its parent, not needing to understand the why before obeying (E6:5-9). Bosses are to treat employees fairly and employees are to work well even if treated unfairly, leaving their vindication to God alone (E6:5-9). Neither Christian boss or Christian employee should take advantage of one another because they are brothers, but should actually serve one another all the more as a result (1Ti6:1-2). In all of the NT instructions on the workplace, the writers are clear that our work-life brings us eternal reward and judgment, just like the rest of our life. Home A husband is head of his household and is to lead his family in family Bible reading & prayer (1Pe3:7). He is to discuss issues with his wife rather than making arbitrary decisions since that will embitter her (Col 3:19), but ultimately he then has the final say (E5:22). Spouse A husband owes it to his wife to give himself to her in regular sex (1C7:1-7), which is both good and pure and is also the best way to avoid either of them falling into sexual temptation (1Th4:4-6, H13:4). Husbands are to love their wives as much as Jesus loves the church and wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Jesus (E5:22-33). Wives are to work even more on their inner beauty as they do on their outer beauty (1Pe 3:1-6). Parenting Both parents have e)cousia over their children in their own right, not just the father (E6:1,Col 3:20), but the father should take the lead in using that authority fairly so as not to exasperate/discourage them (E6:4), but firmly so as to bring them up in discipline and obedience to God (Rev 3:19, Prov 3:11-12, Lam 3:27, 1Ki 1:6). Truly loving your child means disciplining them and even using smacking. A father is to teach Scripture to his children as a bedrock for their lives from day one (2Ti3:15) and to model an authentic Christian life – in fact even though there is an age of discretion at which children make their own choice to follow or reject the Lord (Is 7:15), the father is responsible for the choice they make, since it is highly influenced by what they have taught and what they have seen (Ti1:6). Children are to obey their parents (E6:1), even when their parents do not seem to understand (Lk2:51), and adult children are to honour and look after their parents even though they no longer have to obey them (E6:2-3, 1Ti5:4). This importance of home and work life is underlined by the fact that the Bible teaches that how well we have served in these areas affects how much God will trust us with church leadership (Lkxxx, 1Ti3,Ti1, Ex 4:24-26). [Note that Jesus and the Church is the perfect model of marriage (E5:32) and God is the perfect model of fatherhood (E3:15) but not vice versa. We understand the imperfect from the perfect, not the perfect from the imperfect. As a result, the core principles of any training on marriage or parenting should come out of seeing Jesus and the Father.]
· HUMILITY is another part of this radical selfless love, in fact humility is by definition integral to filadelfia (Heb 13:1) and to koinwnia, since these necessitate seeing others as peers and their interests as keenly as your own. We are to be gentle/e)pieikhj and compliant/easily-obeying/eu)peiqhj, and particularly when it comes to submitting to church leaders (H13:17, Phil 2:14).
· UNITY is inextricably linked to Humility, since Paul says that the two big enemies of unity are thinking too much of yourself and selfish ambition, and the two big forces towards unity are humility and looking to each other’s interests an not only our own (Phil 2:1-4). We are already united with one spirit/soul/mind/body (1Th5:23), but we are to act like this (Phil 2:2). Unity requires some relinquishment of self-will, and without this relinquishment the Church becomes as ridiculous as two people in a three-legged race tied together but trying to go in opposite directions (E4:3). We are to be quick listen and slow to speak (Jas 1:19-20), and very quick to give up our “rights” for the sake of unity.
· GENEROSITY Since we have become one Body with other Christians, we no longer see our own belongings as belonging merely to ourselves. There is nothing wrong with having personal property and earning a high wage, but we need to recognise that God gives some Christians more than they need in order for them to exercise cheerful giving to those who have less (2C8:15,9:9, E4:28, R12:8). Another form of generosity is hospitality without grumbling, sharing your home with newcomers, visiting ministers and non-Christians (1Pe4:9, H13:2) with joy and no resentment.
· PASTORING ONE ANOTHER The NT is full of one another language, with the expectation that the job of pastoring the church is not down to the pastors, but to every member of the church as they are equipped by the pastors. Christians should speak only what will build one another up (E4:29), and should encourage one another by believing the best and speaking the best for people (A9:26-27). Every member of the church should also encourage, admonish and rebuke one another, but always with patience and always with specific teaching from Scripture to back it up rather than generalities (2Ti4:1-2).
· MERCY AND FORGIVENESS Part of our love is a willingness to be wronged and yet still return love for evil. Our love is unilateral and does not depend on how people treat us (Mt 5:38-45, 1Pe2:18, 1C13). It is not that we do not want justice, simply that we leave all vengeance to God (R12:19-21, Jer 20:12), knowing that if we return love for evil then God will personally work as our Avenger anyway (1Pe3:9). When someone has wronged us we are quick to forgive (E5:31), and when we are in the wrong we always make the first move to cover the offence and bring reconciliation (Mt 5:23-24). The fact that we are not judgmental does not mean that we are not discerning, we just let God be God and we act as the men we are (Mt 7:1-6). We know that with the measure which we use in interacting with people God measures back to us, so we make sure that we are kind and not harsh, judgmental or unforgiving because God’s hand towards us depends on it (R14:4&10, Mt 6:14-15, Mt 5:7, Jas 2:13).
· PATIENCE Both with others in the church since part of Christian character is putting up with people (E4:2), and with God since faith needs to be mixed with patience in God’s perfect timing if we are to hold on for our inheritance (Heb 6:12).
· GOODNESS God absolutely hates hypocrisy and absolutely loves a sincere, pure and undivided heart – in fact He would rather close down a church than have people professing to be part of the Kingdom but not living it for real in their hearts (Is 58, Rev 3:15, Joel 2:13, Amos 5:21-27). The only difference between many of those who will be saved and those who will go to Hell is not what is on their lips but what is in their hearts (Jer 12:2). A Christian should be straightforward and without guile (2C1:12), totally truthful, and totally free from idle chatter or coarse talk (E5:4). What you are in your heart is what you really are, and what is in your heart will result in what you do, so make sure your heart is good and pure (Prov 4:23, 2Chr 12:14, Lk 6:45, Phil 4:8&Mt 6:22-23).
· GOOD CITIZEN Christians should be model citizens, submitting to rulers, honouring them, and paying their taxes (R13, Ti3:1-2). Yet the Bible will not pander to nationalism – we seek the prosperity of our country of birth (Jer 29:7), but we are strangers in it (1Pe1:1) and citizens of Heaven, alongside which no earthly nationality has any importance (H13:14).
· PRINCIPLES OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT:-
· One church in each city under one team of elders, even if that church is several thousand in number (A11:22,14:23&27,20:17, 1C1:2). The church may meet in smaller congregations for practical reasons but never as different churches led by different leaders – buildings are places to meet, they do not drive structure and strategy. A good example is Ephesus with one team of elders (A20:17, Rev 2:1) but meeting in several congregations (1C16:19&20), or Rome with 6 congregations (R16). The aim is not big churches but for all of the Christians in one town to be part of one body together, and so when another town was just a few miles away a new church would be planted rather than trying to keep it part of the mother church (eg Cenchrea R16:1).
· Each church is always led by a team of elders (A11:30, A13:1,A14:23, Jas 5:14) led by one lead elder (A12:17,15:13,21:18, Jas 1:1, Gal 2:9). Leadership by one single person is not God’s plan, leadership should be plural, yet with a senior team member. The team should be chosen based on who God has called and on who are the right individuals, but it is good when the team is diverse in gifting (esp Eph 4 gifts) and in profile (eg age, race, background) since the whole church will reflect its eldership (A13:1). Note that God’s plan for leading the church is not voting but anointed leadership (Ezra 10:15).
· The NT only mentions three church offices:-
i) Apostles, who are people sent by the Holy Spirit to plant, establish and release new local churches each under a team of local church elders they have ordained as led by the Holy Spirit. Apostles will usually be an elder too (1 Pet 5:1, 2Ti1:6 +1Ti4:14), will usually be itinerant (2C10:16, all the Twelve but Peter had left Jerusalem by 37AD Gal 1:18-19) but not always (James brother of Jesus), and have as some of their key tasks ruling on disputed issues of doctrine and practice (A15:2, 1C5:1-6:8, 1C7:17, 2Th3:6-15), and church planting. If an apostle is unable to go somewhere he may send an apostolic delegate in his place with his delegated e)cousia (eg Timothy/Titus). Note that there was no formal hierarchy of who led worldwide Christianity, but rather the apostles submitted to one another in discussion and prayer (Gal 2:2,6,9, A15), and apostles only ever ministered into a church via its local church elders (1Th5:27, 3Jn9-10), never over the heads of local church elders, exercising authority over a church rather like an elder exercises authority over a married woman through her husband and affirming his headship. Apostles are the NT fulfilment of the OT prophets (Num 12:7), but none of the 1C apostles were foolish enough to claim infallibility (Gal 2:11-14), let alone modern apostles. Jesus is the ultimate apostle (H3:1) and apostles are merely under-apostles under him, which takes the pressure off them.
ii) Elders Given many titles in the NT (presbuteroj = e)piskopoj = poimhn A20:28) but all meaning the same thing. Elders are the real leaders of any local church and any input from the apostles is only through the elders, there is no room for apostolic domineering (Jas 5:14, Gal 1:16-17). Some of the key tasks of elders are teaching true doctrine/ practice, setting vision for the church, training up leaders within the church, exercising discipline in the church, and praying for the church. Elders should focus their time on a) Personal Bible study b) Personal prayer c) Pastoring the church via public and one-on-one Bible teaching d) Regular times of prayer and fasting with the other elders and with the church (A6:4, 13:2-3). An elder need not necessarily be old (2Sa9:9n), but he should be a good example and one who loves releasing people into fulfilling their dromoj rather than lording it over people (1Pe5:1-4+Mt20:25-28). Elders can be relieved of unnecessary burden by remembering that they are in the church and not over the church (1Pe5:2, A20:28), that Jesus is the great Elder of whom they are mere under-elders (H13:20, 1Pe2:25 ), and that Jesus is the Head of the Church who joins it together and sustains it, not them (E4:15-16, Rev 2:1, Zech 4:6-12). Elders gain a reward for serving well (1Pe5:5, 1Ti3:13), but are also judged for serving poorly (H13:17, Rev 2:16, A20:26-27).
iii) Deacons/diakonoi who are any full-time or lay worker given recognition as a staff member but not an elder, and whose task is to fulfil the elders’ vision and to do some of their work so that they can concentrate on their own priorities (Phil 1:1, A6:3-4). This is much more than just waiting on tables, and many evangelists, prophets, teachers etc will be diakonoi (A21:8).
· BASICS OF CHURCH LIFE
· Meeting Together as a whole church for a weekly Sunday meeting (“the Lord’s Day” 1 Cor 16:2, Rev 1:10, A20:7), and throughout the week in smaller groups in homes (A2:42-47,20:20). Churches must not neglect meeting together because the church is something when it comes together e)n e)kklhsia that it is not when it meets purely socially (1C5:4&11:18&14:19,28,34,35, Mt 18:20). Sometimes 21C Western churches have so many midweek meetings than the leaders take their eye off the quality of the Sunday service. Sunday is the main meeting of the church, it is the only meeting to which some church members come and the meeting to which most outsiders come, therefore let nothing dim your focus on the Sunday meeting as the key event.
· Koinwnia as one Body (1C6:15) a) In Thought, having one mind (A4:32,1Th5:23) b) In Heart, enjoying friendship and fellowship together (A2:46, 2 Pet 2:13+Jude 12, 1 Chr 29:22), and meeting up a lot throughout the week in addition to structured meetings c) In Deed, sharing possessions with others in need as if it were our own need (A2:44-45,4:32-35), and sharing our homes with Christians visiting our town (A21:4,7,8,16, R12:13), and as a Body, treating one person’s persecution or suffering as if it were our own (H13:3, Mt 25:39-40, 1C12:26). This koinwnia is the corporate expression of the Law of Love/a)gaph, without which the best local church is worse than nothing (1C13) – in fact Jesus is busy closing down churches because of their lack of koinwnia (1C13&11:17, Zech 8:16-17). Jesus is even more interested in what a church is than he is in what a church does (Hab 2:12). Is 58 says that (a)gaph + koinwnia inside) + (a)gaph to those outside) à Massive growth and revival.
· Personal Evangelism One of the main purposes of church meetings was to spur people on to love and good deeds outside of the church meetings (H10:24-25), and one of the main reasons people came inside was to be more effective outside (Mt 21+ E4:12). We must never get so wrapped up in internal church life that we forget that God’s purpose is to send us out of the church to the world outside (Mal 1:5, Ezra 3:13). Evangelism was an every-member everyday activity, and this was a bigger emphasis in the early church than big outreach events (A2:47).
· Corporate Evangelism going out into the town as a whole church to bring the Gospel to the town together (A4:33)
· Personal Devotions Each individual church member devotes himself to Bible reading (A2:42,17:11), Prayer (A2:42), Worship, Evangelism, etc, and does not simply rely on the church to grow him (Heb 5:12-14, 2Pe3:14, Jude 20-21). Each church member seeks to grow himself so that he can grow others, and so that he can put more into church life than he takes out (1Ti5:8).
· BASICS OF CHURCH MEETINGS
· Preaching God’s Word is the most important aspect of a church meeting (2Ti4:2, A2:42,20:7, Neh 8:8), and esp the Gospel of the cross of Jesus (Ezra 3:6). We must not neglect simply reading God’s Word aloud in our meetings either (1Ti4:13, Rev 1:3, A15:30-31, Col 4:16). The Jerusalem church was amazing in character, but it only became that way through the teaching it received (cfJas, 2Ti3:1-9), and Paul specifically says that how a church lives reflects the teaching it has received (1C9:2, 2C3:1-3). There is no conflict between preaching the Gospel message to Christians and preaching the Gospel message to non-Christians, the early church had non-Christians come to most of their public meetings and as a result of the normal Sunday service many non-Christians were converted (A20:20-21, 1C14:16&23-24). It is good to have specific evangelistic services where the message can be particularly focused at non-Christians and which can act as a focus for church members to invite their friends, but we should also have faith for every service to be accessible to non-Christians and to lead to their salvation. Church members should be confident that “It doesn’t matter what the topic or passage of Scripture is today, or who is preaching, I know there will be something relevant for my non-Christian friend.”
· Worship together is central to church life (A2:47, Ezra 3:10-11, 1Chr 15) – the NT contains parts of many early church worship songs (E5:14, Phil 2:6-11, 1Ti3:16, 2Ti2:11). Even when we do not feel like worship it is good to worship as a church, reminding ourselves of what God has already done in our lives (Is 51:1, 1C6), and in many ways our worship as a church is of greater value to God when we do not feel like it (2Sa24:24, 1Chr 21:24). Worship as a church is more than just singing on a Sunday but also living during the week, and how we live during the week makes our corporate praise more or less meaningful to the Lord (H13:16).
· Corporate Prayer Both as part of Sunday meetings and as part of informal corporate life throughout the week (A2:42,4:23-31,12:5). One of the key characteristics of any true church is to be a house of prayer for all nations (Is 56:7, 1Ti2:1-8). This prayer should not just be focused on parochial local church issues, but on the worldwide church and on national and international political/social issues (1Ti2:1-8) that peace, blessing and salvation would come to the nations.
· The Lord’s Supper Both at Sunday meetings (A2:42,20:7) and in less formal midweek meetings in homes (A2:46,20:7). Since Jesus ordained this for the church it is a non-negotiable for church life. Jesus does not stipulate how often churches should take the Lord’s Supper (1C11:26), but the emphasis is on frequency rather than infrequency. This ceremony is normally called breaking bread in the NT, and once called the Lord’s Supper (1C11:20). It is never called communion, although this expresses the fact that through breaking bread we enjoy koinwnia with Jesus and with one another (1C10:16-17). The meaning of the Lord’s Supper is i) Remembering Jesus’ death on the cross and the New Covenant which it inaugurated (1C11:24-25) ii) Proclaiming Jesus’ death to one another and to the world (1C11:26 & Ex 13:8-9) iii) Looking forward the Lord’s Second Coming (1C11:26) iv) Celebrating that we are united with Christ and with each other (1C10:16-17). Thus the Lord’s Supper has a past, present and future aspect, and should be a joyful ceremony rather than a solemn one (Ezra 6:19-22). It is also a ceremony which proclaims our deep love & unity together, and Jesus takes very seriously any Christian who goes through the motions of the Lord’s Supper while harbouring selfishness or disunity in his heart, even punishing individuals with sickness and churches with decline and closure for this offence (1C11:17-34, Jude 12). It is more serious for a Christian to take the Lord’s Supper carelessly than for a non-Christian to take the Lord’s Supper.
· Exercising Charismatic Gifts We should expect God’s power to be present with us (1C5:4), and should make room for miracles (A2:43), prophecy in times of worship (1C11&14, 1 Chr 25:3,2 Ki 3:15), tongues and interpretation (1C14), starting a song in English (1C14:26), singing a song in the Spirit (E5:20). The xarismata build up the Church, and also result in non-Christians recognising that God is present within the church and being saved (1C14:25). Charismata must not be forbidden at “guest” meetings – they polarise people, meaning that those who will not be saved leave and those who will be saved get saved (1C14:21-25n).
· Every Member Ministry is one of the key characteristics of the New Covenant (H8:11). We do not live under a covenant of a few spiritual heroes and their loyal followers, but of a complete people of God who all know God and who are all baptised with the Holy Spirit. This is why the NT pictures of the Church tend to have a corporate sense eg Family, Temple, priesthood, and People (1Pe2:4-10, Rev1:6,5:10&20:26). When we come together in a meeting, everyone has a song, word of instruction, prophecy, tongue or interpretation to bring, so we need to make room for this (1C14:26). If we fail to make room for this then the church fails to be built up as God intends. God deliberately only reveals part of the picture to each individual in the church so that only together as a Church will we understand all the things which God has for us, so we need to make room for all to share (Col 2:2).
· Order We need to make room for the xarismata and for every member ministry without sacrificing order. Order/tacij can quench the Spirit but so too can disorder (1C14:40, Col 2:5)! The elder leading a meeting needs to stay in control, allowing gifts to be exercised but stopping or starting them as is necessary to weigh them publicly as a church there and then (1C14:26-40). Children must not be allowed to run around nor women allowed to chatter during the services (1C14:26-40). These things may seem unimportant, but they this kind of disorder is actually a great insult to the Lord, and a great problem to effective meetings.
· The Presence of God Ultimately the best church organisation and leadership is nothing unless God comes in His tangible presence through His Holy Spirit (2Ch 5:13-14,7:1). God promises that He will dwell in the midst of His Church as His authentication of that church (Zech 2:10-12, Zeph 3:17), and that when He does non-Christians will recognise it and long to be part of His people (Zech 8:20-23). The Lord’s presence is the sine qua non of any church and church meeting.
· Expecting People to Be Saved A church knows that lack of conversions, new converts falling away, and established converts renouncing their faith are all signs of God’s judgment on a church (Hag 1:5-11, Hos9:11-16), which calls not for new strategies but from repentance and turning back to God (Hos 14:8). So long as a church is walking in clean conscience before God, then we should expect a big harvest daily and at least at every meeting (A2:47, Zech 8:12-23, Amos 5:3).
· PRINCIPLES OF THE CHURCH COMMUNITY
· Baptism in Water is a non-negotiable command of Scripture (Mt 28:19, A2:38) and the entry point into the Kingdom of God and therefore into the Church family which is within the Kingdom of God. In Acts people were baptised so soon after conversion that Paul was able to talk about conversion and baptism in water as the same event (Gal 3:27, A22:16, 1C12:23). Certainly the idea that someone could be a Christian but not get baptised did not enter into early church thinking, much less that someone could become a member of the church without being baptised. Baptism is by full immersion (Jn 3:23, A8:38), and seemed to involve a person confessing “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” before being baptised (A8:37n). People were baptised on their own profession of faith rather than close vetting from the elders (A8:13+18-24+36), but since we do not have the natural deterrent of persecution which they had, some vetting is legitimate. Where possible, baptism should be a public outer confession of the secret inner working of repentance at an event such as a Sunday service (1Ti6:13), although this cannot be non-negotiable since there are clear examples of private baptism too (A8:38&16:33).
· Membership The early church leaders did not feel it was their responsibility to judge whether or not a person was truly saved, they were willing to baptise people quickly based on their own profession of faith (2C13:5). However, they were much stricter about who was part of the e)kklhsia and who was not. They seemed relatively relaxed about who came into the formal group of people who were in the Church – stressing that church membership offered no eldership seal of approval that someone was actually saved (2C13:5) – but they were formal enough about who was in for them to be able to put people out. Membership enables you to clearly receive or not receive people into the church on the terms of the elders, and not on their own terms, or put another way, one of the most important reasons to have a membership list is so that you can remove people from it (1C11:19, Neh 13:1-3)! Membership should be given after a process by which the elders get to know the newcomers and then offer them a formal welcome into the church (Gal 2:9). Far better to have a small but highly committed group than a large diluted group.
· Releasing Every Member The Church does not serve its leaders in their ministry, the leaders serve the church by equipping and releasing every member into the ministry which God has given them (E4:11-14). Every church member has a different dromoj which God has given them to run, and church leaders are not to lord it over them (1Pe5:3+Mt20:25), but are to equip them to fulfil it (E4:7-16) as co-workers together (2C1:24). Jesus has deliberately knitted local churches together in such a way that if there is disunity in the body, apathy in the individuals or domineering leadership then they will languish, but if there is equipping and envisioning leadership in an atmosphere of unity and valuing every member then the church will naturally grow in size and maturity (1C12, R12:3-8). He has deliberately set up the local church so that self-interest alone should be enough to cause us to care for one another and look after the weak ones of the flock rather than pressing on with just the strong ones. We must therefore be highly committed to the principle of every-member-ministry or “everybody gets to play” and to releasing the church into their dromoi rather than our own goals. Other implications of this are i) We treat newcomers as a huge value, since we assume that they are people God wants to knit into us to make us balanced and healthy, and that if we turn them away actively or passively then it is disaster (1C12:18) ii) We do not “natural attrition” via the back door or inactivity in members – the very least member is too important! iii) We do not concentrate just on the keenest members but realise that we need to mobilise everyone (Col 1:28) iv) We watch keenly who God is adding to us since His sovereign knitting of people into us is one of the key ways in which He guides us as to what He will do through us as a church – a church’s dromoj is in many ways the sum of the dromoi of its members v) We do not devalue those who cannot contribute as much to the Kingdom (1Sa30:21-25), but rather we see that anyone who prays for those active in evangelism or who hosts and provides for those involved in evangelism as co-workers with them (2C1:11, 2Jn10-11,3Jn8).
· Releasing New Leaders Leadership is absolutely key in the church, and we need more leaders because we want to grow and therefore need more, we want to give leaders away and therefore need even more, and because today’s leaders will not all be leading tomorrow due to age, relocation, life-stages etc. Much hangs or falls on a church’s ability to raise up new leaders rapidly. The Lord’s method for fulfilling His purposes is not money but people (Hab 3:9), and people are a far more valuable resource than money.
· Remembering the Poor The church is not instructed to help the non-Christian poor financially but to help them with salvation, healing and deliverance – in fact social work among the non-Christian poor can be a distraction from the Gospel which is the real message which will help them most. However, within the church, church members are to see that no one within the Body is financially needy (Gal 2:10, A4:34, Neh 5), our love must not simply be with words but with practical provision too (Jas 2:15-16, Phil 2:25). The church should do this via a diakonia, a common pot of money administered by the elders through the diakonoi (A6:1-7) which operates under the following guidelines:-
a. No one forced is forced to give, that would be theft (Phm 8), but all should be taught that the natural result of the love of Christ is to share freely with brothers and sisters in need (A4:32-35). There is no set amount that a person should give, but all should give as much and even more than he can (A11:29, xxx). Every single person should give, even those who are receiving, so that there is not one class of givers and one class of receivers but all give (1C16:2).
b. This giving between Christians should happen via the diakonia rather than direct since the elders can see the bigger picture and can give the money fairly where it is most needed (A4:35,11:30). This money may be given to the needy or it may be used to buy items to distribute to the needy (A6:1).
c. This principle of diakonia is not just for helping needy Christians within a local church, but also for one local church helping other poorer local churches. The same principles apply, with the added principle that the giving church gives the money to the local church elders of the receiving church as a grace gift with no strings attached (xarij in 1C16:3) – the giving facilitates the local church elders in leading the church, and is not a form of paternalism (A11:30). We must avoid creating unhealthy dependence.
d. Those diakonoi who manage the money or the transfer of the money should be men of tried and tested integrity (A11:30, 6:3, 1C16:3) and should operate as a team not as individuals so that there is no temptation or possible accusation of corruption (A11:30, 2C8:17-22, 1C16:3-4, Neh 13:13, Ezra 8:21-36).
e. The diakonia must be managed in a discriminating way (1Ti5:3) so that all Christians remain responsible for their own lives and not dependent on others. Every church member or receiving church has a responsibility to get themselves off the list of recipients and into giving towards the diakonia as soon as possible (E4:28, 1Ti5:6, Ti3:14), and to try to keep any of their own family off the register by providing for them themselves (1Ti5:4,8,16). The church should have a formal register of who qualifies to receive help from the diakonia (1Ti5:9), which ensures fairness whilst at the same time providing a public forum to say why someone is not being helped (eg their lifestyle, their relatives, their own laziness 1Ti5:9-10). Those who are put on the list commit via a covenant to invest their time into the Kingdom in return for the money (eg in discipling, praying, helping, etc 1Ti5:12+A9:36-39). All this is to ensure that people are released from poverty to independent service, not to dependency, laziness and paternalism.
· Generous Giving from Members to the Church The work of building the Kingdom requires money, and church members are to give of their money in order to build the Kingdom. We should not expect the lost to pay for the work of the Church (3Jn7, 2C11:7-8). Here are some principles for how church members should give:-
a. Resources do not just materialise, they need releasing and releasing needs asking (Phm, 2C8-9, Neh 2:7-8). Elders need to teach straightforwardly on giving, and to recognise that there will never be a perfect time for it – Paul devoted 2 out of 13 chapters of 2 Cor to this even though his relationship with the Corinthians was at an all time low. Elders also need to share specific and compelling vision of how much money is needed and why – the more specific the elders’ vision is, the more generous the church members are likely to be in giving. Leaders then need to take the lead in generous giving themselves (Neh 7:70-72, Ezra 2:69). David’s example of leaving his personal money to the Lord and not his children in his will is also a good precedent for older members (1Chr 29:3-5, Jdg 16:30).
b. It is good to have a collection at each Sunday meeting (1C16:2) rather than no collection for a long time and then a large one, as it helps people to give steadily rather than in one crippling hit.
c. New Covenant Christians are not under the OT Law (Col 2:14-17) and are therefore not under the command to tithe and the threat that not tithing is stealing from the Lord (Mal 3:8-12). Leaders cannot therefore command or force their people to give (2C9:7), and to do so would actually be theft (Phm 8). The New Covenant principle is that of generous giving, each one giving as much and even more than they can give (2C8-9, xxx), and so we can urge Christians to give as part of the normal christian life, expecting that since the New Covenant is a better covenant than the Law then Christians will give far more than 10%, not out of obligation but out of joyful choice. 2C8-9 gives 7 legitimate ways to persuade:-
1. Jesus’ example – he became poor so we could become rich, so let us be like him towards others
2. The fact that this is a normal fruit of salvation, so in doing so we see evidence of the Holy Spirit working in us
3. The fact that this will result in praise and worship to God when the recipients receive the gift from us
4. The fact of Christian koinwnia – firstly the recipients are our brothers and we belong to them, so not to give to them would be to swindle them (R12:5), and secondly other Christians all around the world are giving too so we have koinwnia with Christians all over the world as we give. In fact R15:26 calls the diakonia the koinwnia.
5. If we give to God, then He will give much more back to us (2C6-11, Mal 3:10)
6. God is looking for people to whom He can entrust vast sums of money and then give them the xarismata of sharing/metadidwmi (R12:8) and helps (1C12:28), so that He can make them channels of great sums of money into His Kingdom (2C8:11). Even if we do not have these particular xarismata, we are all to operate in these principles to some level (E4:28).
7. The knowledge that how we invest money here on earth results in reward in Heaven (Mt 6:4)
· Generous Giving as a Church to other Churches Whether money to a church in poverty via a diakonia (A11:29-30), money to fund church planting (2C11:7-8), money to help poorer established churches (Phil 4:10-19), or our best people and leaders for church planting or to other churches (A13:2-3), healthy churches are always giving away. It is more blessed for a church to give than to receive (xxx). It is very unhealthy for a church to be focused solely locally or even nationally, healthy churches have their eyes on the nations and give away lavishly (1C16:1,3,5,15,19, Is 56:7). A desire to grow your church for its own sake is just a spiritualised form of pride. Every church should aim to be an Antioch church, however poor/small (Phil 1:5&7), and to want to grow for the sake of being able to give more, not being able to grow fatter.
· One New Man in Christ God delights in uniting people from different races and from different classes all together in one loving family (E2:11-12,3:2-13, R15:5-6). The more groups hate each other in the world, the more God loves reversing it by His love in the church. Our aim in everything in church life is glorious unity, not homogeneity.
· A Prophetic Voice to The Nation We do not complain that the world is dark, we light it (Mt 5:13-16)! Rather than condemn sin outside the Church, we deal radically with sin inside the Church (1C5:12), knowing that the way to change the world is for the Church to be a model of the godly alternative. A whole community of people living in love, unity and purity is powerfully effective by its difference (Hos 7:8-9, E3:17, Col 1:23, Rev 21:2), and results in people being attracted to the Gospel through the Church and being saved (1Pe2:15, 2Chr9:1-12), and the secular leaders coming to us for the answers (1Ki10:1-13,24-25). We are internally vigilant to live up to our names the City of Truth and the Holy Mountain (Zech 8:3) so that we may be externally effective. Sir Fred Catherwood “To try to improve society is not worldliness but love. To wash your hands of society is not love but worldliness.”
· Fairness to Full-Time Workers We pay full-time church leaders generously so that they can share the same standard of living to those to whom they minister, and so that they are not distracted from their leadership by financial need (Gal 6:6, Neh 13:10, 2Chr 31:4). A church worker may decide voluntarily to forgo some of his rights to payment, but the church cannot decide this for them (1C9:9)! We pay church workers according to need (eg size of family 1C9:4-6&16), but also with some regard to performance (1Ti5:17-18). Because we want to pay church workers fairly whilst using the money given by the church wisely, do not take people onto the payroll too early, they need to earn the right to be paid by the church, release them more and more into lay service and bring them onto the payroll only when it is necessary for the work involved.
VISION & STRATEGY
· The Lord has a certain race/dromoj laid out for every individual (A13:36) and for every church (Ex25:9, Neh 2:12). In fact, since God knits together every member of every church for His purpose, it is fair to say that every church’s dromoj is the sum of the dromoi of its members, and God knits together the right members with the right personal dromoi in order to fulfil His dromoj for a particular church. The obvious implication of this is that it is not our job to choose our own vision and ask God to bless it (A22:18-21, Is 7:7, Prov 19:21,14:12), but to discover His vision for our life and for our church and then to run it because it is the only vision He is willing to bless (Is 65:2, Jer 17:9-10). Pursuing our own strategy only ever results in us wearing ourselves out with no fruit (Is 47:13, Hos 11:6). God already has a clear dromoj (R8:28, Eph 3:11), and He chooses leaders who are willing to do everything that God wants and not their own desires (A13:22+1Sa13:14,2:35). In fact if God tells you to do something which seems unstrategic you had better do it quickly. A good idea is never as good as a God-idea (A8:27, 1Ki 17:2,20:36).
· The sharper your understanding of the dromoj which God has laid out for you, the greater your focus, energy and success. The equation here is Sharp Vision à Huge Energy and Perseverance à Huge Success (1C1:14-17, 1C9:23-27). Jesus had a very sharp sense of his own dromoj which is why he was able to minister with such energy and success (Mk 1:38), and the same is also true of Paul (Phil 3:12-16, 2Ti3:10, Gal 1:16, A20:24,22:10-15, R15:20-21+Is52:15).
· Every Church needs to be clear about what its dromoj is – Firstly, when church members do not have a clear vision for their Church they give themselves to everything other than the Church (Is 22:12-19) and usually end up in sin (Prov 29:18). Conversely, the clearer their sense of their church’s vision, the more whole-heartedly they will give themselves to the church (1C1:14-17). Secondly, even if church members are devoted to the church, if the vision is vague and divided then their actions will be vague and divided, with little result. God hates a divided heart, but says that when we have an undivided heart for His dromoj then we will have great success (2Chr25:2&14-16). Thirdly, a sharp sense of your dromoj enables a person or church to say no to legitimate activities, which will distract their energy from your real mission (A18:20, Lk 4:42-43). Tiredness is a real obstacle to building the Church and so clear vision helps us to teach church members to say no to the wrong things so that they can have time and energy for the right things (Neh 4:10). Fourthly, if a church is unclear where it is going then it is not able to celebrate and rest when it gets there, whereas churches which have a clear sense of vision are full of celebration and of rest periods because they know where they are going and when (2Ti4:7).
· What is God’s General vision/dromoj for an Individual or Church? Jesus continues his mission through the Church his new Body on earth (A1:1, H2:3-4), so we are not seeking to find a separate vision for the Church but simply to continue his mission at its 21C phase. The key elements are:-
· Worship and Witness are the two main purposes for the Church (1Pe2:9, Is 43:21, 1Chr 16:23, Ezra 3:10-11), and all of the other purposes of the church feed into this. Both worship and witness are actually inextricably linked, both are proclaiming God’s greatness, just to a different audience (1Pe2:9, Is 12:4-5), and although the ultimate priority of the Church is not Kingdom expansion but worship (1Chr 15:29), worship includes evangelism, and evangelism is the only type of worship which we can do better on earth than in Heaven. Non-Christians are always happy with the Church so long as its mission is social action or anything other than worship and witness, but when the Church focuses on its two main purposes of Worship & Witness then opposition really begins (1 Chr 15:29). The Church should be single-mindedly focused on saving as many lost people as they possible can (even a couple of legs or part of an ear Amos 3:12), and we need to beware in case internal priorities or social action distract us from our main purpose. Jesus’ statement of purpose in Is 61:1-4/Lk4 has a social aspect to it, but its primary application is spiritual. The best thing we can do for those outside the church is not educate or feed them but to save them, after which we will be able to set them on their feet not merely to educate and feed themselves but also to educate and feed others.
· Doing and Teaching is linked to this, since true worship of God is not merely what we sing or testify but also what we do (A1:1). Linked to this is a commitment to Prayer since every true church of Jesus will be “a house of prayer for all nations” (Is 56:7).
· Being Jesus to the World as he dwells in us as his Temple by the Holy Spirit and causes us to bear his very names (Jer 33:16, Eze 48:35, 2C5:21+1C1:30, Rev 3:12). This does involve social action since we are to be The Lord Provides to the world around us, but it involves even more being The Lord Justifies, the Lord Heals etc. This is another way of saying that God pours all of His blessings into us through the cross of Jesus so that He can then bless the rest of the world through us (Gen 12:2-3, Jer 33:9). Any Church of Jesus must have a strong focus on being inside to bless/reach those outside (Ezra 3:13).
· Big/Growth is God’s general vision/dromoj for a church, whatever the specifics. The Church and the number who will be saved will be vast beyond anything we can imagine (Rev 21:15-17,7:9, R5:18-19, 2 Pet 3:9, Dan 2:35, Is 9:7), and we should expect greater not lesser growth as the end draws near (Jn 2:10). The NT applies all of the sand on the seashore promises to Abraham to the Church, but only ever applies remnant theology to ethnic Israel (R9:25-29). The remnant theology of the OT merely told Israel that their share would be small, not that the whole would be small. It would be legitimate to apply remnant theology to a faithless local church or denomination, but it is unbiblical to apply remnant theology to the worldwide Church in general. Lack of growth calls for repentance, not passivity, because growth is the norm when God is pleased with a church (Is 5:10, Hag 1:5-11, Hos 9:11-16, Is 54:2-3) [33% of churches in the world are <50 people, the next 33% are 51-100 people, the next 28% are 100-999 people, and only 6% of the churches in the world are >50 people – this is not God’s plan for His Church!]. However we are not to aim at growth per se but at health, knowing that if a church is healthy then it will grow (A16:5). A healthy church is that described in the “Church” notes. Greg Haslam says from 1Ti1:1-2 that a good church is like a good restaurant – Good Food ie teaching, Good Service ie leadership, and Good Ambience ie koinwnia amongst the people à Growth.
· How do we Know God’s specific vision/dromoj for a specific church? i) Recognise that God will give you clear general vision of what to do, but will not give you 20:20 detailed vision of how to do it. He wants us to be dependent on Him and not independent, so He tells us the clear direction and then guides us as we move into it (Is 41:13, A1:8+A10, 2Sa5:19+23-24). Use common sense eg Paul sped past small towns in order to concentrate only on metropolis towns which could then plant out into the smaller towns without him (R15:14-33), he went on his First Journey simply to he and Barnabas’ home areas where they already had links, and he made lots of decisions purely based on his own common sense in view of circumstances (Phil 2:25). Push on lots of doors and see which doors open (A16:6-10,17:17,20:3). Yet mix this common sense and vigilant speculative activity with Holy Spirit guidance (A15:28) eg Paul spent 2-3 weeks in Thessalonica but 3 years in Ephesus. Be willing to drop everything you are doing when you see God doing something around you as this is His invitation to join in (Jn 5:19,4:40, A3:1-10,14:9-10). Wait patiently even if guidance takes a long time coming and do not be impatient and reckless (Is 28:16, 2Sa18:14, Jer 23:32,42:7). While you wait for further guidance just press on actively in the light of your revelation so far (Is 26:8). Work in Team relying on many counsellors (Prov 15:22,12:15), especially the advice of older people who have been around a long time (Prov 20:29, 2Chr 10), and drawing on the insight God has given to every member (Col 2:2) rather than a diktat from the leaders to the people. That said, do not lives for other people’s prophecies, visions and advice, you are responsible for the path you take yourself (1Ki13:18). [NB Many people say they really want to know God’s specific will for their life. Paul tells them God’s general will for their life, which is holiness (1Th4:3) and joy/thankfulness/prayerfulness at all times (1Th5:18). As they devote themselves to this then God will tell them more specifics]
· Casting Vision to the Church – i) Choose your timing for sharing the vision since getting the right timing is crucial in winning support (Neh 2:12) ii) Sometimes it is crucial to win over a few individuals one-on-one before casting the vision publicly iii) Before you can cause people to embrace your vision, you need to help them to see how terrible the current situation is (Neh 2:17) iv) Paint a picture of the visionary future, using emotion and appealing to the heart in order to create an eager desire for it to take place v) Make the vision personal rather than merely corporate, and joint as a team together (Neh 2:17) vi) Share with them that the vision has come from God and what He has already done to show He wants it to take place (Neh 2:18), focusing them on His character and His promises as the basis for commitment to His dromoj (Neh 4:14&20) vii) Do not force people to do the work but keep casting vision so that people give themselves wholeheartedly out of their own freewill (Ezra 10:4). Use motivators such as the privilege of being allowed to take part in church building (Ezra 4:3, Mal 1:13) or any of the other motivations for evangelism, since really the work of church building is a work to increase witness and worship. viii) Do not blame the people if they do not catch the vision and refuse to work. It is your job to keep casting the vision and praying that God will cause them to catch it, since only God can give someone a heart a consuming desire to build the Church (Hag 1:14, Ezra 1:5, Neh 4:6&12:43, Jer 24:7). This drives us to fervent prayer.
· Re-casting Vision to the Church – You need constantly to recast the vision since people will forget it very quickly. You need to recast the vision every 3-4 weeks or people will get distracted by other visions and stop the work (Neh 4:10,14,20, Neh 13:10). Celebrate every tiny success and milestone along the way as an excuse to recast the vision (Ezra 3:11). One tell-tale sign of flagging vision is when people say that they are tired, since when vision is strong, weak bodies rise to it, but when vision is weak, strong bodies feel tired. Another reason we need to keep on recasting the vision is that Satan will actively oppose any church which tries to run the dromoj which God has given them. Satan’s key weapons against vision are:-
- DIVISION – Church members turning against leaders because they remember better days (Hag 2:3, Ezra 3:12), because they are tired (Neh 4:10), or because they do not like the vision any more (A6:1-7). Even key leaders who refuse to help (Neh 3:5). Respond to division with patience and with firmness of vision. Do not be distracted from a God-given vision by man-given complaints, simply recast the vision and press on in steadiness (Hag 1:2-4). Do not give up on the people or the key leaders.
- DISCOURAGEMENT – From false advice (Neh 6:10), false prophecies (Neh 6:14), or pessimistic thinking (Neh 4:12). From ridicule (Neh 2:19, 4:2-3) or from wearisome internal barriers (Neh 4:10). From a particular event which knocks the heart out of a congregation and which needs to be dealt with quickly by the leaders so they can move on (2Sa2:23,20:12-13). We deal with discouragement by remembering that God is with us (Hag 2:4-5, Jos 1), and that even though the church has often looked like it would die He has revived it every time like the tide going out and coming in (Mic 7:7-13). We also take people’s ridicule to God in prayer as a provocation to Him to vindicate His Name, and in this sense ridicule gives greater certainty of success (Neh 4:4).
- DECEPTION – so that the church falls into sin (A5). Deal with good teaching, rapid confrontation and firm discipline (Neh 5).
- PERSECUTION – Either mere slander (Neh 6:6), threats (Neh 4:11) or actual physical force. We deal with persecution by taking every step we can to protect ourselves from it (Neh 4:8&11), and although we refute slander we do not get distracted with trying to clear our name, we get on with the job. We then remember that God gave us this vision and so He will protect us until we complete it (Amos 7:10-17, Mt 16:18), that the world has always opposed God’s servants (Hos 9:7, Lk 6:23, Ezra 3:3) and that therefore these attacks should encourage us that we are on the right track (1C16:9), and that even if we do suffer then it is for the name of Jesus (A5:41). We also remember that trials build strong churches, ease and comfort destroys them (Neh 9:27-28, Esth 8:17, Dan 12:11). God promises that He will never endorse an attack on His Church, and that if a church leader refuses to bow to persecution, He will turns resistance into assistance and advance (Is 54:15, Ezra 6:6-12).
- DISTRACTION – From fruitless meetings (Neh 6:1-4) or activities (A6:1-7). From false helpers actually want to hijack your vision to their own ends – we need to be categoric in our refusal to unite and in making a clear division between our vision and theirs (Ezra 4:13). Do not try to work with other religions or even half-hearted churches for greater “weight” (2 Ti 3:5, Is 30:1). Better a small and highly focused group than a larger but diluted group.
· Pursue your church’s dromoj with relentless zeal When Satan sees that your church is taking ground from him then he tries to bargain to end the onslaught (Ex 8-10, Mt 8:31, 2Sa2:26-28). Do not negotiate with the Deceiver, push home your advantage ruthlessly. The overall leader must live and breathe this vision as his life’s work, and he must ensure that his leaders of 100s live and breathe it and they make their leaders of 10 live and breathe it. This is why it is good for there to be continuity of lead eldership and not frequent changing of leadership. James led the Jerusalem church at least 37-62AD ie 25 years.
· TURN VISION INTO NUTS AND BOLTS STRATEGY – Recognise that strategy itself is not our answer but repentance, returning to God and walking with an undivided heart before Him (Hos 14:8, 2Chr20:15, 2Ki 6:27). The sin of 1Sa 8:5 was precisely wanting leadership and strategy like secular organisations, and we are not simply to ape the world as if our answer lies in the latest programme or the latest buzz-word (Is 22:8-11, Mic 4:1). At the same time recognise that Vision needs to be turned into nuts and bolts strategy if it is ever going to happen. Success comes to those who do not merely have a vision for success but who plan for success (Prov 19:2,24:27,21:15,22:3,12:11). Planning helps us to know what are the right things to do, it helps us to know the right things to do at the right time (Prov 10:5, 20:4, 6:6-11), and it helps us to keep on track and finish what we start (Prov 19:24, 12:27, 26:15). Clear vision leads to hard work (Prov 16:26) and to passionate praying (Prov 16:3,29:26, 21:1), whereas vague vision has little power to stir to work or to prayer. Those who see strategic planning as unspiritual are actually using super-spirituality as a mask for laziness and pious irresponsibility (2 Chr 32:5). Some principles for strategic planning are:-
i) Principles of top-line strategic planning (Neh 2:13-15&Neh 3) What is the current situation à where do I need to get it to à what people and financial resources do I need to get there à what are the different steps I need to take to mobilise these people and this money à top-line plan. A good help in seeing how things could be better is to ask the question “If I had unlimited _______ then I would ________”
ii) Principles of lower level problem-solving:- 1. Ask “What is the real problem? Where do I need to get to?” Define it in one sentence à 2. List all the possible causes of the problem & all of the possible solutions to the problem à 3. Use data to confirm and prioritise the different causes and solutions à 4. Seek input from others into the analysis you have done à 5. Prioritise and implement the right solution to the problem à 6. Evaluate to see whether the situation is changing and it was the right solution. Further principles from A6:1-7 are deal with the problem rapidly and publicly (A15:6) as a church team, making it the congregation’s problem to solve rather than just the leaders’ problem. Deal with it with clear delegation to individuals who will have responsibility for the implementation of the solution, making sure everyone knows what will/won’t be done, by whom and why. Problems solved in this way make a crisis into an opportunity for further growth.
iii) Make sure that you do not merely strategise good plans for growing and pioneering, but also maintenance and preserving the good things you already have. Jesus is the great Maintainer (Col 1:17) and maintenance is vital alongside pioneering.
iv) Recognise that the same dromoj will have different activities at different stages. Our mission is the same mission which Jesus started but our nuts and bolts activity is different from his because we are at a different stage of the mission. Paul began his work in a town with non-stop cold contact outreach (A17:17), but once he had a core group of 20 or so converts he invested the bulk of his time into discipling them and equipping them for reaching out to their friends (A19:9,18:7). Once a church was established, he equipped it to plant out lots more churches into the area beyond it, while he moved on (R15:14-33). Just because the dromoj does not change, does not mean that the strategies will not.
v) Start acting today like the church you want to become tomorrow (Ezra 3:6). Do not wait to become that church or you will never become it. Churches become like the churches they act in faith as though they were. Do not scrimp and save in church building – if you spend nickel and dime money you get nickel and dime results (Ezra 3:7).
vi) Concentrate on investing in the few for the sake of the many. This is what Jesus and Paul both did. Every elder is responsible for all of the people that he leads and cannot ignore any single church member (Col 1:28), but it is right for him to invest heavily in the 20% so that they can look after the 80% (2Ti2:2). Recognise that mighty leaders become mighty by training up mighty sub-leaders (2Sa23, 1Chr 11:15). Recognise also that God’s way of bringing breakthrough to the whole community is to lead a few pioneering men into victory against the enemy, which gives the whole community courage to take several steps forward (1Sa14:21-22).
vii) Be patient and realistic. God gives fruit slowly so that we can cope with it, He does not give us so much that we sink (Prov 20:21, 13:11, Lk 5:6-7). That said, realism does not mean no risk-taking. God’s leaders should be faith-filled risk-takers (Prov 22:13,26:13). Learn from those who have gone before you and do not reinvent the wheel (Ezra 3:2, Mic 6:1-5).
viii) Do not become so over-loaded with programmes that you miss the main thing. Sunday services are the main forum where the church come together for vision, equipping and commissioning. Give great attention to these.
· TURN STRATEGY INTO ORGANISATION – Even when Vision is turned into clear strategy, it still needs to be turned into every-member mobilisation through good and effective organisation. The difference between success and failure is not simply the quality of the vision/strategy but the quality of implementation and hard work (Prov 21:25), and this divides visionary dreamers from visionary leader-achievers. Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco CEO “Strategic planning is only part of the battle. The difference between success and failure is the difference between implementing, say, 80% or only 50% of your plans.” PM “Great resolve without great leadership results in good intentions but bad practice.” Judah had a great vision to rebuild Jerusalem long before Nehemiah arrived, but it only happened when Nehemiah turned good intentions into clear organisation and implementation. Success comes not to those with a good vision or a smart strategy but to those who work hard (2Ti2:3-7, Prov 21:25,10:4,13:4,14:4,14:23,18:9,20:13,24:30-34, Neh 4:21) JJohn “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary!” In order to make sure that the people are well led, well looked after, happy and hard at work, a good leadership structure is required (Ex 18:23), since one of the functions of leadership is to keep the people working (2Chr 2:18).
· Our capacity limits God’s ability to work through us and to grow a church (2Ki4:3&6). God will never give us so more than we are able to cope with (Lk 5:6-7), so our creation of extra capacity precedes God giving us growth and in some ways prepares the ground for Him to give us as much as He wants to (Is 54:1-3). Although we need to be careful because organisation can very quickly become institutionalised (eg Elijah’s schools Amos 7:12-16), organisation itself is not unspiritual and is simply a means to create greater capacity (Ezra 3:8-9, 2Sa18:1, 1Chr 27). Delegation, sub-leaders, rotas, and making tasks happen automatically are all drivers of extra capacity and therefore potential to grow – if God has set up nature to have systems and automatic action (Mk 4:28), then we need to learn this principle for the Church too. Our one warning as we get excited about this is the Lord’s reminder that the Church grows not by personal power, nor by organisational power, but by my Spirit” (Zech 4:6HEB).
· OT Israelite society was divided into 70 elders à chiefs of 1000s à chiefs of 100s à chiefs of 50s à chiefs of 10s aka heads of [extended] families à each 1 man over his own household (Ex 18:21, Neh 8:13, Ezra 1:5,10:16). The OT army was led in the same way, with David over 30 lieutenants who then led commanders of 100s, 50s and 10s. This system worked very well for Israel both as a domestic and as a military system of organisation (Ex 18:23), and Paul then teaches Timothy that the only way to pastor and to mobilise a large church is through an equivalent system (2Ti2:2), with the same aim of both caring and setting to work. The Elders oversee leaders of 100s and invest heavily in training and developing those men à the leaders of 100s oversee leaders of 50s and invest heavily in training and developing those men à the leaders of 50s oversee leaders of 10s and invest heavily in training and developing those men à the leaders of 10s oversee, pastor, train and develop the fathers and families under their care à the fathers disciple and lead their wife and children – if the man of a household is walking well with the Lord then his whole household will be right too (2Ti2:8) Greg Haslam says on this verse we need “less Hollywood masculinity and more Holy Word masculinity.” Note that the elders do not need to pastor and train up the whole congregation one on one which would wear them out without actually working anyway (Ex 18:18), they need to pastor and train up the leaders under them, and to train and release the whole church to pastor one another (1Th5:14). Each church leader, at whatever level, is responsible for training the next layer of leadership under them as brilliantly as is supernaturally possible.
· Inherent within this whole concept is a culture of personal responsibility. It is easy to feel that you cannot grow the church, but you are not called to, you are called to grow the ten people under your care. It is easy to feel that you cannot bring the world to know Christ but you are not called to, you are called to bring the 10-20 non-Christians you do know to Christ and to equip those people to reach their friends. None of us can change the world, but we can all in God change our world, which in turn will change the world.
· Therefore we need to mobilise every single person in the church to active participation and leadership. Every man has been called to lead his family and therefore is given strength by God to do so. Most men can graduate also to being a leader of 10, some of those can graduate to being a leader of 50, some of those to leader of 100, etc. If this organisational structure is working well then leadership development will happen, the challenge is to make sure that it is working well. We need to mobilise single people as valuable to the church (1C7:25-35); we need to mobilise the elderly and not to let them count themselves out of usefulness at the very time when they have the wisdom and time to be of huge value to the church (2Sa19:31-39); we need to mobilise the retired/unemployed who have too much time on their hands which will lead to sin unless filled (2Th3:11), and to mobilise them into fruitful work for the church and to discipling the next generation (Ti2:1-5). Do not discount anyone from the work based on gender, youth or old age (Neh 3:12); although different people have different skills, all should carry some of the mundane task too (Neh 3:8&32, R12:16). Every single member is of crucial value to the church. Vision gives them a desire to work, and Organisation helps them to know how to work and ensures they work.
· Once the organisation is in place, work with it and do not constantly change it (Neh 3). Delegate whole sections of the work to people rather than small parts so that you can be completely free of that work and do not need to micromanage, delegating not on a pro rata basis but according to the ability of each individual/group (Neh 3). If possible, it is best to delegate a task to someone who has a vested interest in the outcome eg teaching the children to a conscientious parent (Neh 3:10,7:3).
· Since there are plenty of tasks to do, let people slip in and out of one role if they want to. God hates serving without faith as much as He does evil desires (2Th1:11). If someone does not have faith for a role, let them get faith for it or get out and into and area where they do have faith!
· The role of a lead Elder is that of ship’s captaincy / kubernhsij (1 Cor 12:28+A27:11&Rev 18:17), ie stewarding the ship for the real ship’s owner Jesus (H13:20, 1Pe2:25, 1Pe5:2, A20:28), setting direction for the ship in line with the ship-owner’s will, and day-to-day management of the crew, food supplies, tools and ship. kubernhsij is a xarisma from God and does not rely on our intrinsic skill or power (1C12:28). God chooses the lead elder that He wants and enables him to serve through His extrinsic skill and power. The role of an Elder who is not the lead elder is to work as part of the leadership team, a team of men equally responsible for managing the ship towards its goal, but submitting to the leadership of the ship’s captain. The role of the deacons/ diakonoi is to work hard as a full-time or lay worker to fulfil the elders’ vision and to do some of their work so that they can concentrate on their own priorities (A6:3-4). These elders and deacons can also take comfort from the fact that proi+sthmi/ leading is a charismatic gift (xxx), and they also can operate from extrinsic and not intrinsic skill and power. Note that when God appoints, He also anoints. If God has truly chosen you then you have His e)cousia and need not worry about votes and murmurings among the people, people will follow you if God has anointed and appointed you as leader of His People (1 Chr 12:22, 1Sa 22:1-2+13:15, 1Sa 23:13,27:6, 2Chr 15:9), and they will follow you with an undivided heart (1 Chr 12:33&38). But if He has not truly chosen you then you had better get out quickly, since this job is impossible unless the Holy Spirit is working in you to enable you to do it (Ex 2:14, 1 Sa 15:24). Further encouragements for leader are that God delights in them (2Sa15:26&22:20), and he trains them to do the work He has given them (2Sa22:35, Mk 1:17).
· THE TASKS OF A LEADER
i) Time Hearing from God - All direction and vision must come from God, and the only secure basis for leadership is that you hear from God and people recognise that you do. True wisdom is to have a hearing heart, not independent discernment (1Ki 3:9), and God gives to His anointed leaders the ability to understand the current situation and what needs to be done at this time (1Chr 12:32, Esth 1:13). Part of the activities of any eldership team should be regular times of prayer and fasting together in order to hear the right direction from the Lord (A6:4, 13:2-3).
ii) Time Praying to God – One of the responsibilities of a leader is to pray for those under his care, and not to do so is a sin (1Sa12:23). Leaders should devote large amounts of time to personal times of prayer and worship (A6:4, Ex 18:19, 2Chr29:11), even late into the night (A23:11,16:9,18:9). Leaders should also be careful to pray as much after victories as before, many a victory has been lessened by the fact that the leader stopped praying after the event (2 Ki 13:18-19, 1Ki18:42,13:14, E1:15-23).
iii) Teaching true Doctrine and Practice – Leaders should be devoted to personal Bible study (A6:4, 1Ti4:13&15, Ezra 7:10), and they should then teach the truth to the church via preaching to large groups (Ex 18:20, A20:7), and via one-on-one discipling (2Th2:12). Good elders are a safeguard against false teachers (Ti1:10-16), and they are guilty of their church’s blood if they fail to teach them the whole counsel of God (A20:26-27). Elders are to muzzle false teachers and put them out of the church if necessary, warning the church to have nothing to do with them (Ti1:10-16).
iv) Modelling the Christian life and practice (1Ti4:12, Phil 3:7,4:9, 1Th2:10, 2Chr 31:3,35:7-8) – This is linked to teaching true doctrine and practice but recognises that people follow the leader’s Walk more than their Talk (1Ti4:16, 2Pe2:2, H13:7).
v) Setting Vision for the Church – In their hearts all Christians really want to build God’s House, they just do not know how. As soon as they see God-appointed leadership with a God-given vision and the plans to make that vision into reality, they will give themselves whole-heartedly to the work.
vi) Setting up and Leading the Sub-leaders to achieve the Vision (Ex 18:21) – See separate notes on the importance of organisation. God promises that the Holy Spirit will empower leaders to gather and organise under-leaders (Ezra 7:28).
vii) Training up New Leaders – Training up new leaders is vital if the church is to grow, and this is a key role of the elders since leaders raise up leaders, no one else does. God promises that if He is pleased with a church then He will enable them to raise up new leaders rapidly, but if He is not pleased with a church then He will curse them with lack of leaders (Is 3:1-7, 2Chr 9:9, Zech 11:5-6&16). A church leader only becomes a strong leader by having lots more strong leaders (2Sa23), and even Saul had a leadership training scheme (1Sa14:52) – how much more should we!
viii) Setting the Church Culture - If the lead elder of a church fails to set the culture of the church, then someone else will. The heart of a church will dictate all that it does (Prov 4:23), and God is more interested in how a church does than He is even in what it does (Hab 2:12), so set a healthy church culture of love (1C13) which is pleasing to God and which He wants to build people into. Make sure that your church culture is deliberately aimed at making the Gospel attractive to people outside of the church through love and good deeds.
ix) Pastoring the Church – Note that it is not the job of the elders to pastor everyone in the church, it is the job of everyone in the church to pastor everyone in the church (1Th5:14). Pastoring is an every-member ministry. The role of leaders is to teach the people to do this and make sure that they are doing this. This is a key principle if a leader is to stay focused, undistracted and joyful.
x) Disciplining those who do wrong – Deal with issues very quickly and it promotes purity, but leads to impurity and ten years of good work being undone in a year (Neh 13, Ezra 7:25-26). Church leaders have a responsibility before God to deal with issues quickly, and He will hold them guilty if they do not (Neh 13:17).
· THE CHARACTER OF A LEADER This is generally the same as Christian character, but even more so. Church members will become like their leaders for good or for ill, following the leader’s Walk even more than their Talk, so the character of the leader is absolutely crucial (1Ti4:16, 2Pe2:2, H13:7, Ezra 9:2). Put negatively, this principle means a church will only be as good as its leader, but put more positively, a leader need only change himself and he will change the rest of the church. God’s way of bringing revival and change to a church is always to revive and change the leaders of the church first (1Sa7:3, Ezra 10:1), so do not take Saul’s way of blaming the people (1Sa13:11), but take responsibility for your own actions. Be on your guard too – this is one of the reasons Satan’s strategy is particularly to attack leaders (1Sa2:24). Some specific characteristics of godly leaders include:-
· Integrity of life – Paul’s life was as much demonstration as presentation, and his life corresponded so closely to his teaching that he was able to say remember what I did, copy that! (Phil 3:7,4:9, 1Th2:10, 1C11:1). Church leaders need to demonstrate and not merely remonstrate! In fact, when a church leader sins he quickly loses the ability to lead the people in his church (Ti2:15). Therefore leaders must be squeaky clean (esp in the key areas of girls, gold and glory A20:33-34), and be at pains to be seen to be squeaky clean too (R12:17, 1Th5:22, 2C8:21, Dan 6:5, but Lk7:40), esp in how we use people’s money and time.
· Strength of character – Who you are when it comes to the crunch is everything. All the posturing before the real moment of truth is worth nothing (2Ki19:3, Prov 24:10). Great leaders are seen in great trials. When a crisis comes, church leaders need to quickly humble themselves and lead the church in humbling themselves in prayer, admitting total weakness to God and reliance on him alone à victory (2Chr20:3-12). When people within the church oppose the plan which you know God has given you, recognise that even though they sound clever and well-reasoned, it is simply a veneer for cowardly disobedience (Gal 6:12, 2 Tim 2:23, 2 Ki 11:14). God loves stability and He hates recklessness in a leader (Jer 23:32).
· Love for all those he leads (Phil 1:8). One of the reasons Paul so fruitful was he genuinely loved those he led, and made lots of time in his schedule for genuine friendship and time with people (R16, A20:37-38,21:1 Phm 1-7). Paul actually says that one of the things he prizes most in a leader is not to look for his own interests but those of Jesus Christ (Phil 2:21).
· Servant leadership – God does not raise up leaders in order to bless them so much as to bless His People through them (2Sa 5:12, 1 Chr 14:2). Church leaders are not to lord it over their people (1Pe5:1-4+Mt20:25-28) but to equip and release them into the dromoi which God has given to them (E4:12), and one of the main symptoms of a leader who is not appointed by God is their self-serving leadership (Jude 12&18). Church leaders are not just servants of Christ but also servants of the church they lead (Col 1:25), so do not complain if they abuse you as a servant. Be willing to give up all of your rights for your people (1C9:19-23, 2Th3:8-9, Neh 5).
· Hard-working – Church leadership requires a lot of hard work (2Ti2:3-7, A19:9n,20:9-13, 1Th5:12), and results in church leadership come not just by grace but by grind. Church leadership is all-consuming, involving opening up your whole diary, family life and even identity and sharing them with your people (Is 8:3, 1Th2:8). Church leaders need to earn the right to go full-time, and should be willing to work in part-time secular work too if necessary in order to build the Kingdom (A18:2-4). The Lord hates and curses lax leaders of His People (Zech 11:16-17).
· Lifestyle balance – Leaders need to lead their people in balancing work/church/family/self (1Ki5:14). Church leadership is a never-ending demand, so church leaders need to know when to say no and when to rest. Church leaders are first and foremost friends of God, then secondly husband, then thirdly father, and only then church leaders. It is of no delight to the Lord if you lead your church well but lose your marriage and your children in the process.
· Zealous for the Lord’s name, not his own name (Is 26:8) – God is not interested in building up a leader and his ego, but on meeting the needs of hurting men and women through leaders who want nothing more than to equip and release God’s People to extend God’s Kingdom while they remain un-noticed. God detests leaders who are people-pleasers since pleasing both man and God is incompatible (Gal 1:10, Is 51:12-13, Jer 1:17, 1Th2:4-6, 2C10:18, Prov 29:25), but He loves those who are willing to speak His words whatever the price (Dan 4:19-27, Amos 3:8&5:10, Mal 2:7). He detests leaders who seek their own promotion instead of looking to Him (Esth 6-8, Dan 2&5, Gen 41), but loves those who are willing to exalt others at their own expense (Dan 2:49, 5:17). He hates church leaders showing favouritism (Gal 2:6, A10:34, Mal 2:9&6), but loves church leaders who are jealous for nothing but His honour (2C11:2-3, Jn 2:17) - in fact, one of the main symptoms of a leader who is not appointed by God is their ego and boasting (Jude 12&18). This in turn makes the church leader 100% obedient – God chose David as His leader because he was a man after God’s own heart (1Sa13:14), ie he cared for God’s plans, God’s ways, God’s honour and not his own.
· Emotional and not merely cerebral (Ezra 9:3, Phil 3:18) – There is no inherent virtue over cold and emotionless leadership. It is good to be emotional about the right things (Joel 1:8, Neh 1:3-4, Ezra 9:2-3, Jn 2:17), in fact you will never be able to lead a church or bring them to the Lord in prayer unless you do feel deep emotion (R9:2-3).
· HOW TO RAISE UP NEW LEADERS i) Recognise that it takes time. God chooses leaders from before they are born (Jer 1:4) and prepares them like an arrow with character, balance and being filled with the Holy Spirit (Is 49:2). He will spend years and years preparing a leader (eg Paul’s 10 years 33-43AD) and then release them at just the right time (Is 49:1-7) ii) Therefore do not set the bar too high for junior leadership, PJ Smyth says release people a year before you think they are ready. Do not disqualify someone due to youth (1 Tim 4:12) or timidity (1 Cor 16:10) or ill-health iii) Be patient with their mistakes. Your under-leaders will let you down, but do not give up on them (Neh 7:5,3:5,5:7&6:17). Persevere with them and they will make it through (Col 4:10) iv) Do not try to make a clone of yourself – God makes each leader exactly as He wants them to be, and with their own unique character (1Sa17:38-39) v) Do most of your training on the job so that you do not slow down your work but increase the scale and scope of your work even as you train them. Both Jesus and Paul were massively committed to team as their on-the-job strategy for raising up new leaders. Team does not mean equality (A19:22), but means the leader letting others do jobs instead of him, even if it means taking longer, so that new leaders emerge vi) Give some classroom training as well as practical training, esp from the Bible (Neh 8:13) vi) Release them slowly into greater areas of leadership as they are faithful with a little more at a time (Lkxx). Start them off with an area where their already have a vested interest in the outcome (Neh 7:1-3) vii) Get them doing the job without the title before you give them the title so that you can see them in action (1Ti3:10) viii) When releasing someone into a high level of leadership, eg a new elder, staff member, etc, it may be good to share with the church that you plan to appoint them and then to leave a few weeks before doing it so that the church can feed back any reasons why you should not do so (1Ti3:10). Certainly be very cautious about formally appointing an elder or other senior leader, since it is very hard to stand someone down once you have stood them up (1Ti5:22) ix) Recognise that you cannot make someone into a leader if they do not want to lead and do not make the effort themselves. You can help someone to grow into leadership, but you cannot make a leader if they will not work at it. Jesus’ Eight principles from MPOE 1) SELECTION - Concentrate on the few to reach the many 2) ASSOCIATION - Spend lots of time together 3) CONSECRATION - Ask for radical commitment and only train those who remain 4). IMPARTATION - Pour your life, knowledge and experience into them 5) DEMONSTRATION - Be the person you want them to become – they will become what you are! 6) DELEGATION - Give a clear task and provide the resources they need to complete it 7) SUPERVISION - Do not let them be discouraged or over-confident 8) REPRODUCTION - Get them discipling others
· WHO TO RAISE UP AS NEW LEADERS i) The most important question is who God has chosen (A1:24, Hos 8:4&10), and if this is clear than however foolish it appears then it is right. But be very sure of this rather than appointing people based on a prophetic hunch. Use analysis too. ii) Appoint people based on character first and not on skills alone. People become like their leaders so appointments based on skill alone lead to disaster – this is why 32 out of 45 qualifications for new leaders in 1Ti/Ti/1Pe are character not skills. MK uses the acronym FATSO to mean faithful, available, teachable, servant-hearted, obstetric. The NT also emphasises specifically servant leadership (1C16:15-18) and wisdom, full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith (A6:3) iii) Appoint people based on track-record with leading their own children to salvation, with disciplining their wife and children, and with diligence in the workplace (A19:22+R16:23), since people are likely to do more of what you have seen them do, not what you hope they will do (7 out of 45 in 1Ti/Ti/1Pe) iv) Appoint people based on your own relationship/ chemistry with them since you have to work with them (Neh 7:1-3). Bill Hybels’ three Cs are Character, Competence and Chemistry, in that order.
· HOW TO RAISE UP YOUR SUCCESSOR Do not be foolish like Hezekiah and think only for your generation (2Ki20:19). You do not know when you will die or when God will call you to another place, so always be working on your successor. The measure of a great leader of God’s people is not just how they lead, but how their successors lead after them. 1 Chr 28-29 gives some good principles on working a succession – i) Choose the God-appointed successor, not your favourite or a clone of yourself ii) Make the choice very clear to everyone and have all the people agree it before you step down iii) Have a healthy period of overlap as a handover if possible during which you can train your successor on the job iv) Give a clear initial vision and blueprint to him to enable him to hit the ground running on day one vi) Store up the resources to fulfil the blueprint before they succeed you so that their early days are as easy as possible.
· PEOPLE SKILLS IN A LEADER
· Some Christians see people management skills as somehow unspiritual, but they are not. The NT church leaders and OT men of God used good people skills again and again (Phil 4:2-3, Col 4:9, Phm, Dan 2:14,1:12-13), and they are really just common sense based on the book of Proverbs (Prov 16:21&23) and other teaching in Scripture. Besides, 1C13 tells us that how we do our church activities is as important as what we do. Some of the key people management principles for church leaders are:-
· Do not lord it over people – Church leaders equip and release the church members to work out the dromoi which God has given them, the church members do not exist to serve the church leader’s vision. You do have e)cousia over your people, so do not shy away from wielding it when necessary (1Ti4:11, 2C1:1, Gal 1:1-2,5:2), but do not wield it clumsily. You lead as a brother leading peers (A20:28), so lead with humility, vision, winsomeness and reasoning (A20:7,17:11) so that people want to follow. Manage change and vision with constant communication, constant opportunities for people to input rather than receiving a diktat, and constant explanation so that they travel on the journey of decision-making with you – even if this takes longer. Do not rely on your position as the basis for leadership (1Ki12:16-20), you need to win over your followers to you by you love for them, and your successes with them (2Sa5:1-2).
· Do not be afraid to be stroppy when necessary – A leader will often need to stand his ground firmly to set clear boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour either within the church or towards the church (A16:35-39). Meekness is not the same thing as weakness.
· Love People and let them know that you love them – So long as people know that you love them then you can speak the truth to them (E4:15, Prov 27:6), rebuke them (1C15:58), and even threaten them (1C4:14-21). How robust you can be with someone depends a lot on how much they know that you love them. Effective church leaders truly love their people and are totally unlike the professional church leader who tries to keep a “healthy distance” and not get be too “involved” (2C11:29). If you want to really affect people’s lives then you have to do it close up (2Ki 4:31-35).
· Be friendly – This is one of the ways in which we communicate our love for people. Greet people with a hug or other physical gesture of affection (1C16:20,Rom 16:16, 2 Cor 13:12, 1 Thess 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14). Use people’s name, give them your full attention without looking away or doing something else, remember what they have said to you so that you can ask them later about it, take time to really listen. Smile when you are talking with people, and smile before you pick up the phone. Unfriendliness is a form of selfishness and defies sound judgment (Prov 18:1). Social niceties, friendliness and polite conversation are the oil in the cogs of relationships, and well worth the effort (Phm 22-25), especially for church leaders who need to do so out of relationship.
· Let others speak before you – If you let other people voice their opinions before you, then often an idea you would block will die before you have to say anything negative. Also by the time you speak people will feel that their voice has been heard and will be far more likely to listen to you. A good leader keeps control of himself in order to have control of the outcome of a discussion (A15:7) It is important to think about who should say something, when they should say something, and how they should say it (A15:12n, Dan 2:14).
· Avoid taking sides – You need to lead the whole church, so where there is polarised debate, do not decide in favour of one group, show the deficiencies in both sides of the argument so that there is room for both sides to fall into line without feeling that they have lost (1C8). Teach into areas of dispute where the Bible has clear instructions, but where there is room for different interpretations do not insist on one particular interpretation but give room for each to decide in his own mind based on what Scripture says (R14:22, R14:1-15:3). Just as you do not force your opinions on people, make sure no church member does either (R14:22). Richard Baxter “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” In general avoid disputing over words and theological side-alleys, which only promote disunity and pride, and stop others from doing so too (2Ti2:14).
· Be straightforward with people – Do not beat around the bush, for good or for bad. Give people straightforward and lavish encouragement (Phm 7, A4:36, 1Th2:12) – the best kind of encouragement is specific, and people generally only need a third as much criticism as they do encouragement. If you tell people what they are doing well and they therefore keep on doing it, then you have achieved far more than you would have done by criticising anyway (eg of how praise a small child). If you are worried that you will feed their pride too much then say “I think God really used you when you…” Most people tend to become what the most important person in their life tells them they think they will be, so give people a good name to live up to and then ask them to be like it (Phm7+20, 2Th3:4). Give people straightforward rebuke too when they are deliberately disobeying God it (2C1:12), whether people inside the church, or non-Christians outside of the church, making sure that they know that you think they are rebelling against God and are not left in self-delusion (A13:46&51, A18:6). A church leader should use no guile or flattery to win people over (1Th2:3-5), and those who do so show themselves to be false teachers (Jude 12&18). Do not hide your sources either when passing on what someone said to you, be open and transparent (1C1:11).
· Be willing to confront – Confrontation is necessary because leaving issues to fester causes disunity and impurity, and unity and purity are too precious to sacrifice. Church leaders need to be willing to cause short-term upset and offence in order to achieve an individual’s long-term good, since sometimes only sorrow leads to repentance and change (2C7:8-10), and if you are unable to do this then you are not ready to lead effectively. Church leaders need to be ready to confront mature Christian leaders too, and not just the congregation (Gal 2:11), and they need to realise that general confrontation of an issue in a sermon is no substitute for personal and specific face-to-face confrontation (Phil 2:1-11+4:2-3). When you do confront someone then i) Do it to their face straightforwardly and not via a messenger or via gossip (Gal 2:11) ii) Do it publicly where necessary if their sin has led others into sin (Gal 2:14, Phil 4:2-3) iii) When you bring the confrontation then you need to use people skills more and not less eg balance it with lots of praise too (Phil 4:2-3), eg use questions and getting them to give verdict on a hypothetical situation which you then apply to them (Lk 7:40-43, 2Sa12), eg encourage them quickly on any progress they then make iv) Give them specific and non-general reasons from the Bible why what they are doing is wrong and practical teaching on what is right so that it is not a confrontation of opinions but of obedience vs rebellion (2Ti4:1-2) v) Give them practical help to change eg if you are confronting two people over their discord offer help to arbitrate and reconcile them (Phil 4:2-3) vi) The work of confronting one another is just like pastoring one another – all of the church confront all of the church, loving one another and speaking the truth to one another – elders need to teach the church on the necessity and how-tos of confronting one another. Dave Holden says if someone says to him “so and so was at the party last night and drank too much” then he asks “why didn’t you confront them?” See also notes on church discipline
· Always be patient with people – Do not take offence at unfair criticism, but be willing to explain to people once again the what/when/how even when you have done so many times before (A13:10-11). Be patient with church members who fail to move forward for lack of faith, helping them gently forward as a loving father (Jude 22).
· Relate differently to different people – Treat older people as parents/grandparents and respect their age and wisdom (1Ti5, Prov 20:29, 2Chr 10). Treat peers as brothers and sisters, with absolute purity (1Ti5). Treat younger people as your adult children.
· Use cunning against enemies of the Gospel – Divide them against each other if you can (A23:1-11). Use ruses and tricks to catch them unawares (1Ki3:16-28). Leave them in the dark as to what your next move will be.
· Finally, remember that however well you lead, some of the people will still persist in doing wrong. Do not be discouraged, this is just reality (2Chr20:33) and does not mean that you are a bad leader.
· CHURCH DISCIPLINE is necessary because false teaching, false practice or divisiveness if left unchecked grows like gangrene and destroys the whole church (2Ti2:17-18, 1C5:6, Gal 5:9). Christians have a tendency to be lax towards sin within the church but judgemental towards sin outside the church, but this is the wrong way round, we are to be very indulgent towards non-Christian friends who sin since this is simply the outworking of their non-Christianity but we are to be very radical vs sin within the church (1C5:9-13,8:10&10:27). Failure to discipline church members radically and decisively causes massive loss, division (1C6:1-11), and can even destroy a church (1Ki1:6) – the church’s biggest threat is not the enemy without but the rebel within (Gal 1:8). Most leaders fail to discipline church members out of “love,” but the true a)gaph of God loves enough to confront (Rev 3:19, H12:5-11, Prov 3:11-12, Lam 3:27), and failure to discipline one church member out of a misguided sense of “love” is actually hatred for the rest of the church since it allows their church to be destroyed. Remind yourself that God has given you a commission to discipline church members (2Th3:6) and that failure to do so is really to honour people more than you honour the Lord and His House (1Sa2:29), that this action will actually help the individual far more than indulgence (Prov 28:23), and that many within the church are not truly Christians and that firm discipline is the best way to ensure that if someone is saved then they repent but if they are not saved then they leave the church – either way is good (1Ti1:20). Here is a summary of the key NT instructions (1C5:1-6, 2C2:5-11, 2Th3:6-15, Ti3:9-11):-
i) Confront them privately as you would on any normal issue.
ii) Rebuke them publicly in front of the church as part of your Sunday service and tell them to stop. Public discipline may seem harder, but closet discipline always causes greater problems, do it publicly so that the whole church knows who has been removed from membership, why they have been expelled, what the individual must do to be restored, and how they should relate to them in the meantime.
iii) Remove them from the church membership and instruct church members to withdraw fellowship from them until they repent. This is not a spiritual form of the “silent treatment” but rather an attempt to show the individual clearly that they are not in the Kingdom of God but in the kingdom of Satan, with the hope that they will be shocked into repentance.
iv) In all of this act in love and with the hope and desire to bless the individual and lead them to restoration. Do not resent a false teacher or a wilful sinner as an enemy himself but as a victim of the Enemy Satan (2Ti2:22-26,3:13, 1Ti4:1), whom we hope not just to cut off but to win back.
v) As soon as person has repented, move quickly to forgive them, restore them and to affirm your love to them as publicly as you disciplined them. Satan wants to use the process of church discipline to cause misunderstanding and estrangement, with the result that the person is lost to the church, so make sure that discipline is swift and restoration of relationship is equally swift.
Those who discipline church members open themselves up to pride and to falling themselves, so when you are exercising discipline in the church be extra vigilant to your own life (Gal 6:1). When an accusation is against an elder then deal with it in a similar way but only entertain a charge when there are 2+ witnesses, assume he is pure unless you see proof that he is not, but if he has sinned then rebuke him publicly since his ministry is public (1Ti5:19-20).