Tag Archives: missions

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

Money and Missions

8:06 AM Money and mission trips can be a sensitive topic.

Most of us find conversations about Christian finances difficult, as did Paul. What on earth are we supposed to do when a close relative of ours asks us to support their summer mission trip? We, like Paul, must be in vital touch with the Lord. We must be prayerfully open to sensing His leading towards the individual He wants us to help. I am certain that I have missed many opportunities because I have been too distracted by my own agenda. But it is essential if we are to help other people that we follow the Lord’s leading. One approach that has occurred to me is this: When a loved one asks me to support their summer mission trip, I can say: “I’m happy to help you, but you must match every dollar I give you from your own savings.” When I give, I want to see that there is at least some effort by the recipient, if he or she is able, to add to the kitty out of their own savings and thrift. Serving Jesus is costly. Paul knew this very well. During the day he preached; during the night he plied his trade. The truth of the matter is that Paul, united with Christ, was able to face life confidently, irrespective of the aid of others. He was “untroubled by the vicissitudes of life” (Hawthorne). He lacked nothing. And this is true partly because he was willing to support himself.

Read Paul’s “Thankless Thanks” in Phil. 4:10-20.

(From Dave Black Online, used by permission.)

 

Missions Strategy

9:35 AM Working on a “missions strategy”? I’ve got a few practical suggestions:

1) Rely solely on the Holy Spirit. Not your missions textbook or the latest fad in missiology. The early church had a secret for its success: It was Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. They were guided by God.

2) Be flexible. The Holy Spirit will affirm some of our ideas and reject others. Sometimes He works despite our plans. But be careful not to devise your strategy and then ask God to bless it. Instead, let’s ask God for the strategy.

3) Beware of busyness. Religious activity is not the same as spirituality. The church at Ephesus is proof of that (Eph. 2:1-7). Spend time with God. Seek His face. Rest in His sovereignty. Simply signing up more Ephesians to do more works without their first love will only lead to disaster.

4) Finally, ignore numbers. Our Lord never trusted the multitudes. He spent most of His time not with the crowds but with a few disciples. Don’t try to attempt with a host what can be done with a handful of committed Christians. Gideon’s 32,000 need to be whittled down to 300 patterned after Christ.

Friend, the Lord alone can guide our missionary efforts. If we work independently of Him we will fail every time. Frustration will kill us if we try to do it on our own.

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and  Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

Building Genuine Community in the Church

7:43 AM How do you build genuine community in a church?

Jesus’ disciples enjoyed community simply because Jesus and not a set of dogmas was at the center of their life. They never tried to “build community.” They didn’t have to. Community was the result of being united in the Christian mission; community emerged naturally when they committed themselves to something bigger than themselves. And so it is in the church today. It is my personal observation that most Christians begin to enjoy genuine community only when they begin to serve the poor, evangelize the lost, and plant churches. The glue that unites them is the missional task of loving their neighbors. A shared sense of mission drives them to community. Their congregations are mission-shaped. Like Jesus, they literally go. For them the Bible, not tradition, is normative, and they hold themselves accountable to each other in love even while they work closely with the surrounding neighborhood, developing strong links between Christians and not-yet Christians.

From Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian Archy, The Jesus ParadigmWhy Four Gospels? and  Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions?. Used by permission.)

Missional Task is the Basis of Christian Unity

8:42 AM Hello Internet friends,

Some of you who have been reading this site for a while may recall that I’ve been working on a new book called Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? My desire is to reflect accurately what Scripture teaches in the area of associating with non-Christians and their world. I’m not especially concerned with our hallowed manmade traditions of doing missions. I feel like I’ve hit on some insights that provide a framework that allows me to combine the twin foci of unity and missions that we see throughout the New Testament. So if you’ll bear with me, I think I’ll introduce you to a few quotes from the forthcoming book. For starters, here’s something to chew on:

Jesus’ disciples enjoyed community simply because Jesus and not a set of dogmas was at the center of their life. They never tried to “build community.” They didn’t have to. Community was the result of being united in the Christian mission; community emerged naturally when they committed themselves to something bigger than themselves. And so it is in the church today. It is my personal observation that most Christians begin to enjoy genuine community only when they begin to serve the poor, evangelize the lost, and plant churches. The glue that unites them is the missional task of loving their neighbors. A shared sense of mission drives them to community. Their congregations are mission-shaped. Like Jesus, they literally go. For them the Bible, not tradition, is normative, and they hold themselves accountable to each other in love even while they work closely with the surrounding neighborhood, developing strong links between Christians and not-yet Christians.

I think it’s very clear that the New Testament affirms Christian mission as the basis for our unity in the Body of Christ. I feel compelled, out of fidelity to Jesus, to repudiate the notion that cooperation is impossible on a practical level. I’ll leave you with this teaser thought: Jesus prayed for our unity in John 17. Can Jesus pray a prayer and it not be answered?

Enjoy the Lord’s Day!

Dave

(From Dave Black Online. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles Christian ArchyThe Jesus Paradigm, Why Four Gospels?, and the forthcoming book Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions. Used by permission.)

True Homeland Security

7:10 PM Good evening, thoughtful bloggers of cyberdom! I want you to meet James. I thought of James while we were discussing Epaphroditus in Greek 3 class on Tuesday. James was my translator when I trekked among the Guji tribe in southern Ethiopia a couple of years ago. At the time he was a young and optimistic 24-year old, freshly graduated from the university. All who knew him loved him. His smile was infectious and so was his passion for the Gospel. Well, when Jason Evans (one of my elders at Bethel Hill) and I decided to minister among the Gujis, we needed a translator, but not just any translator.

Continue reading True Homeland Security

On Leadership

From Dave Black Online (10/21/09):

Okay, okay, I’ve been writing a lot these days about leadership in the church, and you’ll probably quit reading when I say I’m going to offer my thoughts on what a good leader looks like. But here goes anyhoo:

1) Leaders should be enablers. Their task is to equip and empower others for works of service (Eph. 4:11). Their ministry does not center around themselves or their pulpits.

2) Leaders should be examples. That is the clear meaning of Heb. 13:7 and (I am certain) of Heb. 13:17 as well. They realize that Christian education is essentially likeness education (Luke 6:40). Like father like son, like pulpit like pew.

3) Leaders should be able to teach. In Ethiopia, this function is frequently delegated to an “evangelist” who is brought in from the outside. The New Testament teaches that all elders are local, and that each of them must be able to teach. Again, teaching is done not only by words. But regular instruction in the Word of God remains one of the most fundamental essentials of Christian leadership. (P.S. Teaching doesn’t necessarily mean a well-crafted 30 minute homily. Why not step aside from the sacred desk and allow some interaction as you teach, or at least a Q & A session?)

4) Leaders should be able to oversee and serve. This means they need to genuinely care for others. It begins with postnatal care. New believers must be helped to read the Bible. They must be given opportunities to discover their spiritual gifts. They must become a living part of the Body, not just a number or pew sitter. They need to be given chances to share differences and doubts. Good leadership is never threatened by intelligent followership.

My heart is to help the Ethiopian church to raise up such leaders in their congregations. See how totally pathetic I am. I just can’t get missions off my mind.

(Material from Dave Black Online is used by permission of Dr. David Alan Black, who is the author of The Jesus Paradigm and the forthcoming Christian Archy, amongst many others.)