Tag Archives: mission

The Doctrine of the Church: 8 Points

4:48 AM Looking forward to our study of the doctrine of the church on Sunday mornings. Much of what we call “church” today originated, not in the New Testament, but in post-apostolic times.

  • The Lord’s Supper has changed from a celebration to a ceremony.

  • Worship has changed from participation to observation.

  • Witness has changed from relationship to salesmanship.

  • Leadership has changed from servanthood to professionalism.

  • Mission has changed from being missionaries to supporting missionaries.

  • Body life has changed from edification to entertainment.

  • Buildings have changed from functional to sacred.

  • Child care has changed from the hands of parents to the hands of strangers.

The New Testament shows us that the need great of modern Christianity is to return to biblical faithfulness and the profound simplicity of the New Testament.

(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.)

Have I Done Enough?

7:18 AM Do you remember this dialogue from the movie Schindler’s List? It haunts me to this day. It’s between Schindler and Stern:

Oskar Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don’t know. If I’d just… I could have got more.

Itzhak Stern: Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.

Oskar Schindler: If I’d made more money… I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I’d just…

Itzhak Stern: There will be generations because of what you did.

Oskar Schindler: I didn’t do enough!

Itzhak Stern: You did so much.

[Schindler looks at his car]

Oskar Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.

[removing Nazi pin from lapel]

Oskar Schindler: This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern. For this.

[sobbing]

Oskar Schindler: I could have gotten one more person… and I didn’t! And I… I didn’t!

Often I have asked myself, “Why is it I haven’t prayed more for the lost? Why is it I haven’t given more to help further the cause of global missions? How much more could I have done for missions had I not been so selfish? Why did I wait so long in life to learn the importance of of Christ’s call to live a life of radical Christian servanthood? Can I live more simply so that I can send more of my money into His work? Have I submitted every area of my life to His Lordship? When was the last time I shed tears for lost Muslims? If I really submitted my schedule to Christ, how would my life be different? How much more can I do? How much more should I do?”

Often I have to get on my face and say, “Lord, please forgive me for my sloth and self-centeredness. Please forgive me and cleanse me.” How am I spending my leisure time? My vacations? My limited energy (I am getting older). Do I ask the Lord to plan my days and minutes even? Today, this very day, I need to compare my life against the Scriptures and see where I need to be. How can I best relate the crying demands of the unfinished missionary task to my everyday life and work?

In Greek class yesterday we translated Philippians 1:18-26 and saw that Paul was willing to risk his life to preach the uncompromising Word of God. The approval of others, fancy titles, popularity — these meant nothing to him. They were less than nothing, mere skubala. His one goal in life was to know Christ and to make Him known. I called the class to make a decision. There is no place in seminary for the study of God’s Word without obedience. Far better not to study Philippians than to disobey its call to put the Gospel first in everything. Somewhere in the midst of our studies we must come to the place where we see the world as Jesus does, where are hearts break because His breaks, when we measure everything against the yardstick of the Great Commission.

“I didn’t do enough!”

No, and I haven’t either. Shame on me. Shame on all of us who are not consumed with the Gospel.

(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.)

Get the Focus Off the Externals

12:50 PM Do you remember the words of missionary martyr Jim Elliot?

We are “sideliners” — coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers. Oh that God would make us dangerous!

I thought of these words today when I read this comparison between being “imprisoned” by church traditions and literal imprisonment for the sake of Christ. As many of you know, I often travel to Asia, Africa, and the Middle East assisting the persecuted church. I have seen the suffering, up close and personal. As much as I deplore many of our unbiblical church traditions, I find the comparison unhelpful and inaccurate. Of course many of us feel trapped in our manmade traditions. And yes, we are called to suffer for the sake of Christ (Phil. 1:29). But the suffering of the persecuted church is, in my mind, in another category altogether, and I will continue to do whatever I can to make Americans who are cozy sitting in their padded pews (or on their living room sofas) as uncomfortable as possible about it. Not only do I make no apologies for it, I think that with every passing year it becomes more and more obvious to me that the most important thing we can be doing in our churches — regardless of our ecclesiology — is to get rid of our lukewarm insipid faith and take up the cross of self-discipline, suffering, and real sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. If I have any prayer for the readers of my blog, it is that God will use it to help you take steps in this direction in your personal and congregational life. Jesus is calling all of us to a radical lifestyle lived from obedience that affects the world. With tears in my eyes, I say that as long as we are content to live out a religion of externals (home church versus institutional church, the Lord’s Supper as a full meal versus the Lord’s Supper as bread and cup, etc.), we will continue to miss the mark. Never in the history of the world has there been so much discussion about the church and Christianity but, I feel, so little real knowledge of God. Jesus made it clear that His mandate for each of us is to do the will of the Father by going into the fields just as the Father sent Him (John 4:34-38). This means that “missions” is not just one of several options for our churches. God is not asking us to give money to missions. He is asking us to make missions the central passion and thrust of our lives and congregations. When I think of your church, is that what I think of? Or of my church? Tragically, many of us have developed a church-first mentality that is distracting us from our main task. I should know, because I have been the chief of sinners in this regard.

There is a way out of this mess. New Testament Christianity is not reserved only for super saints who are doing all the “right” things church-wise. It is for every believer, whatever your church structure, whatever your location or occupation, whatever your circumstances in life. Jesus wants to live His life through us in the world. The only question is: Will we let Him? Our problem today is that we want it all, and we want it now. But we have to choose our priorities. Yes, I will continue to call us back to the Scriptures as far as church life is concerned. But my constant prayer is that God will help me to do it with a broken heart and with a renewed willingness to make a deliberate calculation to accept sacrifice and suffering for the sake of following Christ.

For more on this subject, see my essay Paper Perfect Churches.

(HT: Threads)

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

On Church Offices

8:03 PM Evening, blog peeps! Here are a few takeaways I had today from our discussion of Phil. 1:1-2:

1) The opening salutation is a window into Paul’s view of leadership in the church. Leadership is always shared. Paul’s ministry was a “co-worker” ministry! Note: “Paul and Timothy”; “overseers and deacons.” Clearly, Paul taught and practiced a “fellowship of leadership” (Michael Green). Continue reading On Church Offices

6:02 AM Off to “regions beyond” (2 Cor. 10:16). Why? I’ve discovered that upward mobility is a downer. I’m haunted by the idea that God can take average everyday people like me and use them for His purposes. There was nothing special about the 70 whom Jesus sent out two by two. And I imagine they were scared to death to be sent too. But they did what they were told to do, because Jesus was their Boss. So they girded up their loins, tightened up their sandals, took a deep breath, and away they went, elbows swinging with every step, preaching, teaching, healing. And it worked! Miracles happened because He was with them.

Serving Jesus is like making a 60-yard touchdown run. (Yes, God plays football.) And the ball’s in our hands. Let’s get out of our holy huddles (especially those of you who have the “perfect” church) and run a play or two for Jesus. Yes, you will get scraped up (or beat up — ask Paul!) along the way. But it’s pretty hard to deny the need that is out there.

By the way, there’s no sense in playing unless you expect results. Don’t limit your playing field to the stained glass aquarium (or to your living room). Jesus is building His church worldwide, and He wants to use you. That’s why you’re here in the first place. Serve Jesus and there will be pain. Live for yourself and there will be pain. There will be pain either way. So why not get your pain working for you rather than against you? Let’s unleash foot soldiers for Jesus. Don’t need to go across the world to do this either. Know how to bake a pie and take it to a neighbor? Welcome to the mission field!

We’ll, enough preaching for one day. (I have a feeling you’re a member of “the choir” anyway.) As I leave for the airport I feel very much alive. The birds are singing, and the donkeys have started munching the grass (donkeys don’t “graze”; they “munch”). God has provided all of this and a good deal more — the stars, the sun, the breeze, wives and husbands and sons and daughters and “infants to sweeten the world” (to use a phrase from an ancient prayer). I am but a tiny speck in the universe, a ripple on the ocean of life, yet God does not overlook me, cannot in fact, because He created me, redeemed me, even promised He would never leave me nor forsake me, taught me to trust Him when I was only 8 years old, a mere child but old enough to realize that we are not doomed to meaninglessness, even in the wilderness of loneliness, even when “God’s megaphone” (C. S. Lewis) of pain shouts to us, despite my keen sense of past failures, my blindness, my selfish isolation. It is heartening to think that even when the work seems so daunting, even when I feel so inadequate, I can still be a vessel bearing the life of Jesus — the way that James Fraser gave himself to the people of China many years ago because God had called him to forsake selfishness and to cease to live for himself, or the way Jim Elliott taught the Aucas what God’s love looks like by dying for them. I have been given a small assignment, but no assignment is small when God assigns it, when it helps to complete the quota of Christ’s sufferings, when we say YES to what He requires of our journey with Him simply because it’s the journey He wants to share with us. And so —

“We follow, now we follow — Yonder, yes yonder, yonder. Yonder.”

— Gerard Manly Hopkins, The Golden Echo.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)

On Social Action and the Gospel

12:16 PM Alan Knox, in an outstanding blog post called There was not a needy person among them, reminds us how important mutual care was in the early church. He writes:

When a new brother or sister was in need, someone took care of that need from their own property. When someone was hungry, that person was fed. When someone needed clothing or housing, that need was met. They considered their relationships with one another as more important than their own physical well-being or their material possessions.

Today, caring for those in need is left to government agencies or parachurch organizations. Christians tend to give a little money and consider the problem shifted to others. The American Dream has replaced the concern for other Christians who are in need.

If I understand Alan correctly, he is arguing that social activity (such as feeding the poor, housing the homeless, etc.) is a fruit of the Spirit. In other words, when a person is regenerated by way of the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20), then he or she will naturally want to implement the horizontal dimensions of the Great Commandment (Matt 22:37-39).

Surely this is a vital dimension of biblical Christianity. And the order, I believe, is significant. In some circles, “missions” is almost completely disassociated from evangelism. According to Weber and Welliver (Missions Handbook, 2007, p. 13), in the U.S. the increase in income from 2001 to 2005 for relief and development was 73.4 percent while for evangelism and discipleship it was only 2.7 percent. I have personally known some “mission” organizations in Ethiopia that engage in service to the community (building hospitals and schools, digging wells, etc.) without any mention of the Gospel. In my opinion, they have failed to keep the main thing the main thing. The supreme need of the nations is the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

But I need to add a careful rider here. Evangelism and social action are not opposed to each other. They are, as John Stott puts it, “two blades of a pair of scissors.” Because Becky and I believe this to be true, we have become involved in several efforts in Ethiopia to address the economic and health concerns of the people there. Perhaps the most visible expression of this concern is the Health Clinic we opened in Burji several years ago. (It has since been upgraded to a Health Center.) I need to emphasize, however, that the primary purpose of the Health Center is evangelism because we firmly believe that individual regeneration by the grace of God is, in the final analysis, the best solution to humanity’s individual and social problems. As Alan noted in his post, Christian social responsibility presupposes socially responsible Christians, and it is only through evangelism and discipleship that people can become committed to holistic missional work.

I remain deeply concerned about what I perceive to be a growing shift in emphasis today from proclaiming the kingdom of God to a purely economic and social gospel. This is like putting the cart before the horse. The Anabaptist Balthazar Hubmaier answered the charge that he required communal ownership of property by stating:

Concerning community of goods, I have always said that everyone should be concerned about the needs of others, so that the hungry might be fed, the thirsty given to drink, and the naked clothed. For we are not lords of our possessions, but stewards and distributors. There is certainly no one who says that another’s goods may be seized and made in common; rather, he would gladly give the coat in addition to the shirt.

The Anabaptists held that the church is a voluntary society comprised of Christians who are bound to each by the reality of the new birth. These “believers” live apart from the world but do not shun it. They do not accumulate wealth but are content with their basic necessities. They help each other faithfully, having everything in common out of sheer love for their neighbor. They live a lifestyle that matches their responsibility to a lost and dying world.

This too was apparently the blessed experience of the early church in Acts. Through their relationship to Jesus Christ, these believers became detached from their worship of earthly things. They experienced freedom from covetousness and greed and seemed to be able to escape the “spend-and-consume” merry-go-round that Satan is now using to hold our American families in bondage. But, thank God, escape is still possible today! When we learn to embrace the Jesus way of life, when we can plan habitually to go without things for Christ’s sake, then we have begun to live the life of “reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1-2) that is acceptable to God. Wherever you are, there are needy neighbors. And there is a cross for you to bear. God has a path of self-sacrifice for every one of us if we will but ask Him for the privilege of self-denial.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)

4:40 AM What my trips to Ethiopia have taught me:

  • Practical Christian fellowship calls for help when it is needed and not merely when it is asked for.
  • Believers are, and always will be, saints together, regardless of race, nationality, political affiliation, or denomination. Yes, I said denomination.
  • If I want to serve God I must never dash ahead of Him in impetuous enthusiasm nor lag behind Him in double-minded unbelief.
  • Only when I apply the truth to my own life diligently can I prove my Christian discipleship to others, Ethiopians included.
  • I must live sacrificially for others. Only then can I can rightly reflect the one who “though He was rich yet for our sakes became poor so that we through His poverty might become rich.”
  • Missionary work is non-stop, 24/7. To call Sunday the “Lord’s Day” doesn’t mean that the other days belong to me.
  • Spiritual warfare is never easy, and we are likely to get hurt. But the final victory is ours.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)

Pray for Dave and Ethiopia Team

Off to the races early tomorrow morning. I’m flying space available to save money, and the flights from Dulles to Frankfurt are all overbooked. Prayers appreciated!

I mean that. We would love to have your prayer support while we’re gone. Not only for the team members but also for the families we leave behind. B and I could not do this unless Nate and Jess were here to take care of the farm and the herds. They are as much of the “team” as we are. Here’s the July 2010 Prayer Itinerary. Feel free to copy and distribute it as the Lord Jesus leads. If God is willing, I will be able to post an update or two here during the trip. If not, we’ll publish full reports of the trip when we return.

Joyfully,

Dave and Becky (for the entire Ethiopia 2010 team)

(From Dave Black Online, used by permission.)

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