Dr. Mohler’s take

Bryan posted a link to this article in his comment to my recent church planting post. And I wanted to make sure everybody saw both Bryan’s comment and the article.

Al Mohler is discussing Fred Barnes’ article in the Wall Street Journal about being a part of a church plant. Dr. Mohler says:

The only strange aspect of this article is the sense that church planting is a new idea. Church planting is indeed a “burgeoning movement,” but it is not new. As a matter of fact, the church planting movement began in the first century — and was central to the New Testament pattern for the church. If this seems new to some, it is only because they are rediscovering a very old idea.

On the other hand, there is something newly energetic about the church planting movement. Younger pastors are increasingly attracted to the vision of starting a new congregation and seeing it established with solid conviction, deep passion, evangelistic commitment, and strategic focus. They see the need and are ready to take up the challenge.

They also understand the New Testament’s impulse toward reproduction. Christians are to reproduce themselves through witness and evangelism, and churches are to reproduce themselves through missions and church planting. Growth leads to growth.

Dr. Mohler goes on to discuss the need to recover existing churches as well and making sure this generation sees the importance of “leading existing congregations into deeper conviction, bolder vision, and greater faithfulness.”

heart or head

Tim Chester is advocating that Christians live in such a way that others want to believe the Gospel while at the same time engaging their intellectual questions. what do you think?

Why don’t people believe the gospel?

It often looks like people have an intellectual problem with our message. They can’t believe in miracles, they tell us. Or they can’t reconcile God with suffering. It’s a problem of the head.

But Romans 1 points to a bigger, underlying issue. Paul says the truth about God is plain for all to see. The problem is not that people can’t believe. The problem is that people won’t believe. We suppress the truth about God in our wickedness. We don’t want to believe because we don’t want to obey. It’s a problem of the heart.

emphasis in original

two clips from John Piper

and

what he said

Richard Baxter quoted at Pulpit Magazine.

Oh, if you have the hearts of Christians or of men in you, let them yearn towards your poor ignorant, ungodly neighbours. Alas, there is but a step betwixt them and death and hell; many hundred diseases are waiting ready to seize on them, and if they die unregenerate, they are lost forever.

Have you hearts of rock, that cannot pity men in such a case as this? If you believe not the Word of God, and the danger of sinners, why are you Christians yourselves? If you do believe it, why do you not bestir yourself to the helping of others? Do you not care who is damned, so you be saved? If so, you have sufficient cause to pity yourselves, for it is a frame of spirit utterly inconsistent with grace. . . .

Dost thou live close by them, or meet them in the streets, or labour with them, or travel with them, or sit and talk with them, and say nothing to them of their souls, or the life to come? If their houses were on fire, thou wouldst run and help them; and wilt thou not help them when their souls are almost at the fire of hell?

(Cited in I. D. E. Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977], 92–93)

the two sentences that I bolded in the second paragraph are exactly the two questions that christ followers today must seriously ask themselves.

or if you prefer, you can boil it down to one simple deadly serious question.

“if you really believe it for yourselves, then why not for others?”

calvinism and evangelism

Tim Challies has a long detailed look at calvinism and evangelism that is well worth reading for those who do not understand why someone who believes in sovereign grace feels the need to spread the good news of the gospel far and wide.

Here is the question Tim is answering.

“Given the tenets of total depravity (the spiritually dead are unable to choose God), unconditional election (saved through God’s sovereign choice) and irresistible grace (once God chooses you and regenerates you, you can’t NOT embrace Him)… what does a Calvinist see as the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel? Does a gospel presentation simply provide the context in which God ‘pulls the trigger’ of regeneration and faith for those He has already chosen? (cf Acts 13:48.)”

Tim notes that:

This question introduces an apparent antinomy–an appearance of contradiction between conclusions which seem equally logical, reasonable or necessary. The antinomy we face is what we perceive as tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. In short, how does our responsibility to evangelize interact with God’s absolute sovereignty in the salvation of souls?

Tim then shares what christians do not have a responsibility to do in witnessing and what we do have responsibility to accomplish.

and then he gives this paragraph which is key.

To be consistent with Reformed theology we must say that if a person is one of the elect, he will come to faith and repentance. It is divinely predestined that this will happen and it is impossible for it not to happen. But God has not shared with us two vital pieces of information. He has not told us just who the elect are and how they will be brought to repentance. He has decreed that we are to share the message with everyone, in every way possible (within the bounds He sets in His Word). Charles Spurgeon once said “if all the elect had a white stripe on their backs I would quit preaching and begin lifting shirt tails” (or something to that effect). God has not put a visible mark on the elect, so we are to treat all men as if they are among the elect, and are to share the Gospel far and wide. We need to share it with a sense of urgency.

we must implore those we know to be reconciled to God and we must do so today.

Tim’s conclusion is right on the money.

Ultimately we need to understand that God has not seen fit to share with us exactly how human responsibility and Divine sovereignty interact in evangelism. While we need to always remember that God is the only one who can bring about salvation, He has decreed that we will be the instruments He uses to take the Good News to the world. And that is what we must do, all the while asking God to equip us to be worthy ambassadors for Him.

true evangelism

here is a good word about evangelism as a lifestyle rather than an event.

There are many misunderstandings about the nature of true evangelism. Many people don’t evangelize because when they think of evangelism, they think of the overzealous man on the street corner with the bullhorn. They think, “I’m not called to do that.” From there it’s a short leap to, “So I’m not called to evangelize.”

But the most effective kind of evangelism is often not done from street corners. Proclaiming the gospel does not involve a sign around your neck, or a bullhorn in your hand. Effective, winsome evangelism can take place with people you already know—your neighbors, your family, and your coworkers. Think of the names of nonbelievers you cross paths with; those people are your mission field.

For Jesus, evangelism was a way of life. When He crossed paths with people, He seized the opportunities to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins. In fact, much of Jesus’ evangelism took place in conversations with individuals. Consider the woman at the well (John 4), the rich young ruler (Luke 18), and Zacchaeus (Luke 19).

Is the church for evangelism?….continued even further

In a way this whole discussion seems weirdly artificial. All of our life as Christ followers is the gospel. Everything we do or say is because of the presence of God in us.

I am not a preacher (vocational pastor of a congregation). I am a lawyer who teaches (and yes I do preach some) the Bible. Standing in front of a class I feel the weight of James 3:1. I also feel unworthy to teach or preach anything out of my own power. the only reason any of us (seekers, as well as Christ followers) are in that room at that time for that lesson is because of the Grace of God manifested toward us through the provision of His son as the perfect lamb that was slain on our behalf so that we could be reconciled to God.

My goal as a teacher is to wake up within each listener a hunger for God’s glory so that they will pursue Him on their own every day. Teaching the scripture is always an exercise in learning the height and depth and fullness of God’s love toward us. That is why it seems artificial to be having this discussion about evangelism in church services.

All of our life is spent working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. every lesson is an attempt to take hold of that thing/reason for which God took hold of me. the goal of every lesson is to make God look glorious and to persuade the listeners to look at Him in awe and wonder and love.

The gospel permeates and undergirds every lesson, every song. It is the reason for our hope. It is the reason for our joy. It is the reason for our love of the Bible. It is the reason we assemble together to encourage one another and provoke one another to love and good works.

God’s wonderful magnificent sovereign grace is what makes sense of the senseless and it is what gives hope to the hopeless.

What else would we have to talk about in our gatherings?