Do You “Make” Christ the Lord?

Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite books of all time:

Scripture never speaks of anyone “making” Christ Lord, except God Himself, who “has made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). He is Lord of all (Rom. 14:9; Phil. 2:11), and the biblical mandate is not to “make” Christ Lord, but rather to bow to His lordship (John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008], 226).

That statement is diametrically opposed to much of our gospel presentations today. That’s right. You don’t make Christ the Lord; he already is!

Praying and Calvinism/Evangelism

Philip Graham Ryken on praying and Calvinistic evangelism:

One way to test the claim that every Christian is a Calvinist at prayer is to consider how believers pray for the unconverted. Imagine for a moment that God is not sovereign in grace, but that salvation ultimately depends on the sinner’s own choice. How then should we pray? Do we say: “Dear Lord, I realize that there may not be much that you can do about this, but if there is, please help my friend somehow to become a Christian”? Of course no one actually prays this way; the very idea is absurd. But what makes it so absurd is that, deep down, every Christian believes in the sovereignty of God’s grace. When we pray for sinners to be converted, therefore, we ask God to do something for them that we know they are utterly incapable of doing for themselves. We ask God to invade their minds, change their hearts, and bend their wills so that they will come to him in faith and repentance. In short, in our intercession we depend on God to save them. This attitude of dependence ought to characterize the Christian’s entire approach to evangelism. True evangelism is entirely dependent on God for its success: the regeneration of the sinner’s mind and heart is the work of God’s Spirit. It does not depend on the Christian’s saying the right words or using the most effective technique. The true Calvinist surrenders to God’s will in sharing the gospel because God’s sovereignty in grace gives the only hope of success [What is a True Calvinist? (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2003), 20].

Mission-Minded Prayer

Is your prayer mission-minded? Is it global? Does your prayer travel around the world? Listen to D.A. Carson on this subject:

We must ask ourselves how extensive our own praying is. Do all our petitions revolve around our own families and churches, our own cherished but rather small circle of friends? Of course, we are primarily responsible for praying for our own circle. If we do not pray for our own circle, who will? But if that is the farthest reach of our prayers, we become parochial, introverted. Our prayers may be an index of how small and self-centered our world is. Of course, we cannot pray for all believers everywhere, except in the most general ways. But it will do us good to fasten on reports of Christians in several parts of the world we have never visited, find out what we can about them, and learn to intercede with God on their behalf. Not only is this an important expression of the fellowship of the church, it is a critical discipline that will enlarge our horizons, increase our ministry, and help us to become world Christians (D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006], 98).

With that in mind, would you keep our church in your prayer?

Evangelism

In God’s sovereign providence I’m attending a pastors’ fellowship tomorrow morning on “Finding a Biblical Evangelist” in Mankato, MN and attending a seminar this weekend on “Personal Evangelism.” Do you think this is a pure coincidence? I’ll let you answer that one.

And I’ll keep you post it later.

A Word on Evangelism

The topic of evangelism is an important one amongst Christians. As a matter of fact, it is one of the essential factors for church growth. Yet, like prayer it is one of the most neglected engagements and lifestyles of Christians. Perhaps this is due to fear of rejection, fear of confrontation and alienation, or simply don’t know how. If the latter is an issue, here’s a short, but helpful article “Cold Evangelism” by Jesse Johnson (a classmate of mine from TMS) in Pulpit Magazine. Furthermore, I’d also recommend “Principles for Evangelism.”

As a pastor and church planter, I often pray and wish to see the following happening in regular basis:

  1. First and foremost, I want to be passionate about evangelism. But passion doesn’t mean anything if it’s mere sentiment and has no specific actions. Hence, I must take specific actions in putting my passion for evangelism into practical and regular engagements. This may be applied differently for different folks, but as for me, I want to be more intentional and even aggressive (without being obnoxious) in confronting erroneous worldviews that people give with the truths of the gospel.
  2. Our church people need to understand that evangelism is what Christians are all called to do, not only by the pastors and/or paid staffs.
  3. I’d like to see many Christians come out of their “Christian bubbles” and confront the world with the gospel. It is difficult to be   mission-minded and mission-fulfilling Christians if we don’t take risks with the gospel but only confine within our own little bubbles and comfort zones.
  4. As one of my seminary professors used to say, our church people need to go out and bring in some fresh bloods into the church. But that can’t happen if we can’t adequately explain some of the fundamental truths about the gospel and if we’re afraid. Just the other day, I had a Jehovah Witness lady going from house to house passing out her literature and inviting others to her Kingdom Hall. I was thinking if someone from the darkness can be that aggressive in propagating lies, I believe that the people of the light ought to be far more excited about propagating the truths of God. That means, we do need to make some serious efforts (time, energy, and money) for evangelism.
  5. Understand that there is no conflict between the sovereignty of God and evangelism. The truth of the matter is, the people who truly understand the doctrine of God’s sovereignty ought to be more passionate about evangelism since it is God who saves, it is God we fear, and it is God who gets the glory in and through. Evangelism is not about us. It is not about what clever tactics or cookie-cutter programs or methods we use. No. Evangelism is about God – it is for God, in God, by God, and to God. When we take us out of the picture, evangelism becomes more like a blessing than a burden or chores.

Clarifying Words on Missions

Pat Howell of Biblical Ministries Worldwide and MissionCrossRoads wrote an excellent article clarifying usage of terms like “international ministries” and “missions,” along with “home and foreign missions.” I’m posting here his words with his written permission:

Here is my ambition with regard to terminology. I prefer we jettison the term “missions.” I use it particularly when I am speaking to an audience unfamiliar with the usage of “International Ministries.” In other words, this is an attempt to break in a new terminology of international ministries.

Today the word missions is freighted with meaning of every kind. It applies to everything from traditional overseas work to cleaning the neighbor’s yard as a form of community service. A good thing to be sure, but is it really missions? If some form of outreach related ministry does not fit the budget anywhere else, it goes under missions.

Moreover, the old adage “Well, we are all missionaries” contributes to this unfortunate amalgamation of ministries under the rubric of missions. We are not all missionaries, or as I would say “international workers.” We are all witnesses to be sure. But international work and workers require specific training, and they encounter very particular challenges that accompany ministering overseas, and frankly, they often embrace hardships that are painfully unique to their work. The years required for cultural acquisition and language learning come to mind immediately.

It appears to me that the most common refrain amongst potential but soon discouraged candidates for international ministry is 1) The prospect of having to raise support (sorry—Support Discovery—and lets be honest, how many of us want to do that?), and 2) learning another language and culture in order to minister in your field of service. Thus, to say that we are all missionaries is to contribute to the diminution of the church’s understanding of international ministry and its requirements.

Perhaps rethinking the issues will be useful in helping us to be more specific as we target areas of ministry, both locally and globally. Local evangelism and a ministry of good works are required by Scripture and essential to a local church’s health and witness in the community. But the testimony of Scripture is that the church is to take the gospel to the uttermost (last, most distant, or extreme) part of the earth. (And by the way, Short-term missions will not accomplish this great task).

Our legitimate emphases upon local and national ministry must be carefully seen in the greater context of those who have never, ever, heard the gospel in their own language—and have little or no opportunity to do so. Doing so will cause us to more carefully evaluate the strategic nature of all ministry, the competencies of those who minister, and the use of God-given resources. The embarrassment of riches that American evangelicals enjoy must be seen as a stewardship granted us by the King who gave us the great commission.

I appreciate your second question regarding “home” and “foreign” missions—and it is a fair one. Both works, regardless of what they are called are essential. Again, I would simply prefer we use different nomenclature. Let us consider calling them “Local, National, International Ministries” or something more creative, or descriptive.

Undoubtedly, there are those ministering in the United States who encounter very challenging cultural issues. Working among Mormons, working in the inner city, working amongst a rural congregation in dairy country—all these require learning a new culture if you are unfamiliar with them. So, there is great validity to the notion of “missions” in this regard.

My appeal is that we really think through what we are doing, why we are doing it, how we are doing it, where we are doing it, and does it genuinely square with the specific statement of our Lord regarding the “uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

And I would like to add two other considerations here:

1. We really need to examine the effectiveness of what we are doing. Howard Hendricks liked to say, “The church thinks it is doing so well, because it has no idea what it is doing.” I fear that when it comes to international ministries we do not do a great deal of examination—we are just happy to have something happening. But what about the stewardship of lives, resources, and responsibilities that accompany the great commission? We should be preparing the best folks in our churches to send them out—and the best leaders in our churches should be overseeing our outreach ministries—since they really are a reflection of who we are and what we are about as a church.

2. All ministry should be seen in light of the great commission. Virtually every Biblically minded pastor would agree that that the church is the focal point of ministry and that the local church is the divinely appointed means to evangelize the world. Thus, every local church should not be merely “missions minded.” Rather every local church should be “Mission Minded.” Our mission is clear—take the gospel to the uttermost part of the earth. So, every ministry in the church—from children’s through adult—all ministry in the church is to lead ultimately to the fulfillment of the church’s mission. Evangelizing the lost, teaching believers, nurturing toward spiritual maturity in both character and ministry, and each believer understanding and embracing their vital role in the mission of the church—locally and globally. I believe this is the truly Purpose Driven Church.