Tag Archives: evangelism

Applying Amos

Seven Marks of a New Testament Church(From Dave Black Online. Reposted by permission. David Alan Black is the author of The Jesus Paradigm and Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, among many other books.)

10:06 AM Good morning to you on this sunny winter day! As you know, this week I will begin team-teaching (with Chip Hardy — a really smart guy who holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago) the book of Amos in both Greek and Hebrew. The course is officially listed as “LXX,” and I’m quite sure the Greek text can and should be read on its own terms, but LXX Amos is a translation of the Hebrew after all, and I think it will be helpful if we keep a close eye on the Hebrew as we work our way through its nine marvelous chapters. However, beyond the question of translation and exegesis — which itself could keep us very busy — there is the message of Amos to be dealt with, namely, the preservation of a covenant people of God until the day God raises up a Son of David in the person of Jesus Christ who shall right all wrongs and provide full and final salvation.

When Amos turned his gaze on the society in which he lived and worked, everywhere he looked he saw nothing but counterfeit religion — exercises in self-pleasure, protection of religious property, and careless indifference to the needs all around them. People lived for frivolity (think American football) and money, and the divine displeasure went completely unnoticed. Amos addressed himself to all who would hear his prophetic word that with privilege comes great responsibility, and that to whom much is given, much is required. Amos was a man gripped by a God of holiness, a God who loves His frail and needy people — His wrath-deserving followers — as much as any God ever could and yet who also insisted that whenever grace is abused and the law is forgotten, a terrible price is to be paid.

And what of today’s church? Is the Lord holding up his plumb line and measuring our lukewarmness? Has America reached the autumn of her probation? Amos was surely written for our admonition. Our God is a different kind of claimant. He demands our complete and undivided allegiance. This is the exclusivity that Jesus so often spoke of. There is no other God! — no matter how many times we hold our inter-faith services or acquiesce to a syncretism that would allow a Muslim call to prayer to emanate from a Christian bell tower.

And what of missions and evangelism? I wonder.

  • New Testament scholars attend their academic conferences, pursuing the intellectual (as well they should). But the true combination of humanitas and pietas, of intellectualism and spirituality, should be apparent in Gospel preaching as well as in the understanding Scripture.

  • Pastors continue to erect their magnificent temples (“churches”) as if God lived in houses made with human hands —  and the church in the Third World goes without. Don’t read Amos unless you’re prepared to have your priorities turned upside down.

  • Seminaries act more like watchdogs than gadflies to sting into action for change.

  • People in the pews remain indifferent to the sufferings of their brothers and sisters in foreign lands. I do not know of a better statement of our double standard than that made by W. A. Visser ‘t Hooft in 1968: “It must become clear that church members who deny in fact their responsibility for the needy in any part of the world are just as guilty of heresy as those who deny this or that article of the Faith.”

Church, we are playing it too safe. This very day there is a Christian orphan in India you can support for what it would cost your family to enjoy a monthly meal at MacDonald’s. I can hook you up today with an evangelist in northern India who, for a mere $60 in monthly support will take the Gospel fearlessly to a completely unreached people group on the border of Sikkim. Would you consider becoming like the apostle Paul — rather than asking for money for the mission work you do, trying your best to become self-supporting so that the resources of God might go to the needy in other nations?

Our Anabaptist forefathers of the 16th century understood this principle well, at least in its application to missions. They knew they would never reach the world with the Gospel if they continued to outsource the task to professional clergy, and so they all stepped out by faith to get the job done themselves. Our conservative churches today claim to “be like Jesus” — and we are when it comes to holding and defending a high view of Scripture. But Jesus was also a radical who wasn’t afraid to sweep away centuries of tradition so that God’s word might be understood and obeyed.

This Friday I am meeting with one of our former doctoral students at SEBTS who practices his trade as an academic in a country where Christianity is at best tolerated. As he lectures in his university, he shares his faith and develops friendships with a view toward Gospel conversations. I want to do everything I can to support and promote that kind of strategic work. In India, as you know, more and more missionary dollars are being sidetracked into charitable social programs by denominations that equate social action with evangelism. How far we have drifted from the faith of the apostles! There is a need for a revolution in missions today, and that change will begin when we admit that Western missionaries are less effective at evangelism, church planting, and establishing local churches than are the local missionaries and evangelists. Foreign governments may close their borders to foreign missionaries, but they cannot close them to their own people. The native missionary movement in Asia is one of the most exciting developments I have seen in my 38 years of missionary work. Week after week on this blog I continue with this one message: native missionaries are waiting by the thousands to be sent to the next village with the Gospel. All they need is our prayer and financial support. As I said, any family in the U.S. can do this. Pray about it, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and God will show you what to do.

Thus is the message of Amos. Special privileges involve special obligations. Special revelation requires special obedience. Special love requires special responsiveness. Jesus says (as Amos did long before Him) that it is of absolutely no consequence to say “Lord, Lord” and then to turn from doing the will of God when it comes to global evangelism. Jesus’ last words are lasting words (as Danny Akin is wont to say). We have our marching orders (Matt. 28:19-20). Millions of souls depend upon our obedience.

Thanks for listening,

Brother Dave

Violating Turf

Think about this. When Jesus went to the Samaritans (John 4) He had no business being there. Becky and I likewise violate turf rules by going to the Gujis. Guji territory is outside the Burji box. But just as Jesus wandered into enemy-controlled territory, so the Christian has the privilege of invading territory controlled by a rival religion. Interestingly, Jesus deliberately defiles Himself by asking for water from a vessel that an unclean woman has touched. I have to smile when I think that Jesus’ ministry to the Samaritans began with a drink. That’s exactly how my ministry among the Gujis began. This picture is no joke — I choked when I “drank” this coffee. (It was full of roasted coffee beans that one was expected to eat. It is a Guji tradition.)

Continue reading Violating Turf

Dave Black has been Thinking

I’ve been thinking…

The most dangerous tool in Satan’s arsenal is distraction. He loves to distract us with things that don’t matter. It won’t matter in the end of time whether or not we had fancy buildings in which to worship God. It won’t matter in the Day of Judgment whether we had impressive programs in our churches. It won’t matter one bit when Jesus returns whether or nor we voted for the “right” politicians. The only thing that matters is that we live as good citizens of heaven in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel. This is Paul’s word to us in Phil. 1:27. Listen friends, when Paul says “The only thing that matters” he means “The ONLY thing that matters.” We ought to ask God to test our hearts to see whether living radically for the Gospel is truly the only thing that matters to us. We need to be cultivating relationships with non-believers in our communities and around the world with a view to introducing them to the most radical, revolutionary Person the world has ever known. Paul perfectly illustrates the point: Here was a man who was totally consumed with the Gospel to the point of giving his life for it. Here was a man who sacrificed all the comforts of his good life in Tarsus to experience suffering because he loved other people more than he loved himself. Here is Paul in his own words:

Since you admire the egomaniacs of the pulpit so much (remember, this is your old friend, the fool, talking), let me try my hand at it. Do they brag of being Hebrews, Israelites, the pure race of Abraham? I’m their match. Are they servants of Christ? I can go them one better. (I can’t believe I’m saying these things. It’s crazy to talk this way! But I started, and I’m going to finish.) I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.

Wow! Anyone you know ever suffered like that for the Gospel? Listen friends, our world today has 6.4 billion individuals living in 234 geo-political nations with over 16,000 people groups. Of those people groups, more than 6,900 remain least-reached. This simply means they are a people group lacking an indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize their own people. This means that 1 in 4 people groups remain without access to the gospel. Here’s a partial listing of them.

Our Lord Jesus was careful time and again to stress the cost of all-out devotion to Him. Our church rolls are loaded with people who claim to be following Jesus but who have no idea of His priorities for the church. What many churches need is a big farewell party in which we tell this age goodbye. We sing “Content to let the world go by” while wearing ourselves out trying to keep up with it! Well, I have said my goodbye to cheap Christianity. I have said my goodbye to raising up vast edifices of wood, hay, and stubble. I have said my goodbye to a little religion. I have said goodbye to the cheap satisfactions of this world. I am fed up with the husks of swine. The water of Life, the meat of the Word, the manna of Heaven – there is a King’s table waiting for the believer, and the supply is inexhaustible. True missionary activity should be the outflow of who we are in Christ. It is one thing to pay God a tip on Sunday morning. It is another thing to submit to His plan and program in uncompromising, unquestioning obedience every day of our lives. John Piper puts it well:

We do not believe Jesus when he says there is more blessedness, more joy, more full and lasting pleasure in a life devoted to helping others than there is in a life devoted to our material comfort. And therefore the very longing for contentment which (according to Jesus) ought to drive us to simplicity of life and labors of love contents itself instead with the broken cisterns of American prosperity and comfort.

What a time for the church in North America to be drunk with her own amusements and comfort and success when she should be awake and alert to the Lord’s commission! His business is our business as Christians. We have no other. There is only one way to handle the problem scripturally and that is to surrender our unsurrendered selves, repent of our ingrownness and self-centeredness, and then get back to being about the Father’s business!

Students, I challenge you to love Jesus more than anything or anyone else. I challenge you to accomplish great things for the kingdom sacrificially. I challenge you to love the lost more than you love your comfort. There are a good many causes you can get caught up in, but there is only one cause that is worth living and dying for. Rather than blindly going along with the culture and even with the church subculture that is focused on itself, I challenge you to go wide with the Gospel among your friends and to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Let’s live for the Cause of all causes!

(From Dave Black Online, used by permission.  Dr. David Alan Black is author of Energion Publications books The Jesus Paradigm and Christian Archy.)