Anyone who reads through the Book of Acts realizes there is a significant shift in the makeup of the Church from chapter 10 to 15 caused by the Holy Spirit and how the gospel spread. Through the beginning of chapter 10, the Church had been Jewish. After Peter’s experience with Cornelius and his household, those in the Church continued to scatter because of persecution.
The gospel reached Cyprus and Cyrene and men from there “preached the Lord Jesus” even to the Hellenists. “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (11:21). This should be the desire of every missionary, preacher and evangelist.
It was not through a planned gospel outreach or organized program. It was the “hand of the Lord” that pushed the gospel into Gentile territory and confirmed it through men like Barnabas who were sent to Antioch to verify the work. “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (11:23).
Confirmation of what God is doing comes by recognizing it is the work of God, NOT man.
Every culture will receive the gospel in slightly different ways. How the gospel is presented is critical for the unbeliever being able to receive it with understanding so they make it their own.
Two good examples are those in Thessalonica and Berea. Paul’s ability to reason with the Jews in the synagogue in Thessalonica persuaded some to “join Paul and Silas as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women” (Acts 17:4).
Though Paul and Silas also entered the synagogue in Berea, it did not take reasoning to persuade them of the gospel. “They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (17:11). They wanted to make sure what they were presented was accurate and worthy of acceptance.
For many unreached people groups, sensitivity to the smallest differences in culture can make the difference in how quickly the gospel is received. Our world of information technology has changed people’s perception of outsiders. Are they bringing the gospel or “goodies?” This caused Alison Gochnauer to make her third point; “the pattern and precedent of depending on outsiders is deeply embedded in the local people’s psyches.”
Changing this perception is difficult, but not impossible. Returning to a biblical model - leaning on the authority and power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit breaks the dependence habit.
Alison Gochnauer’s second point is that “ownership is not easily transferable, and therefore must be present from the beginning.” What has caused resistance to this is hundreds of years of missionary work has given the impression that the foreigner will do the work of spreading the gospel and roles of leadership. This does not ignore the many who have been saved, but we are concerned about following a biblical model for rapid expansion.
As I thought of Paul’s model, it immediately came to me what he said to the Thessalonians; “you became imitators of us, and of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). The word “imitator” simply means doing what someone else is doing. They saw how Paul preached the gospel to them and they did the same thing as far as Macedonia and Achaia. They felt how Paul was with them, “gentle…like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (2:7). They followed that example.
How is this possible in our day? We have seen this happen in Vietnam, Myanmar, Nigeria and other places. It must be very intentional from the very beginning. Before heading into any mission field, we must communicate with those we work with that they must take ownership of the gospel and spreading it among their own people. This includes follow-up discipling.
As we do this, all mental and physical barriers must be removed that this can’t happen. Some may take responsibility easier than others, but we must accept any degree of ownership and affirm what they are doing as biblical.
Alison Gochnauer has written a stunning article in the May/June Mission Frontier magazine entitled “What Have You Brought For Us.” Her thesis is that “the gospel of goods waters down the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
My mind immediately turned to Acts 3:1-10. For years a “man lame from birth” had gone to the temple to beg. No one had offered him anything but money which never changed his dilemma.
“And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”” (Acts 3:4–6). What Peter and John offered was the gospel of Jesus Christ through healing.
Alison makes three valid points that have hindered the power of the gospel spreading like it did in the Early Church. “First, the people’s enthusiastic acceptance of the (translation) project was based on their hope for the personal benefits.” Sadly, we see again and again the interest in learning biblical principles is only as great as the money or goods they receive. When the money and goods of the missionary is gone, so is the interest in learning.
It is time for Jonathan to come home from Nigeria. Bonds have been formed with brothers through a common love for God’s Word that make spreading the gospel a joy as well as a commitment. They have also seen principles in Scripture that strengthen and unified the local church, making it single-minded in the gospel.
“The brothers and I had our "last supper" tonight. I had saved an American summer sausage to share while they got a special African dish called ‘musa’ to share with us.” This reminds me of Paul’s departure from Miletus when he met with the Ephesian elders for the last time (Acts 20:36-38). They would never see Paul again, a man who had poured his life and teaching into them. Ministry is often a series of joining with others for a time and then separating. We should think of each relationship as the aroma of Christ because we are joined together in Him and we should leave behind marks of Christ that others will imitate.
Please pray for Randy and the brothers as they head further north tomorrow into more tough places. Jonathan leaves for Abuja tomorrow to start his journey home. Thank you for praying.
There is a remarkable statement by Paul in Philippians 1:27, "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the truth of the gospel."
Philippi had been an interesting place to start a church. It grew out of Paul and Silas being thrown into prison. The jailor and his household were converted, baptized and a church was established. This amazing beginning and their love for Paul caused him to “thank God…because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:3-5).
As with any good beginning, Paul knew there was a danger that the enemy would divert their focus on to other things causing their “manner of life” to misrepresent “the gospel of Christ.” That is a danger for any one of us. We must remember that every facet of our lives will either represent the gospel or detract from it.
Then Paul addresses the issue we looked at yesterday - unity. We must not forget that the Spirit is the author and means of true unity (Ephesians 4:3). The exhortation here is to “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind.” The idea in “striving side by side” is that we intentionally work together to achieve the advancement of “the truth of the gospel.” There is no greater mission goal for any individual or church than this. Let us test our unity and see if it measures up.
In several of Paul’s Middle Letters, he addresses the issue of unity among brethren because disunity hinders the gospel from moving forward in the power of the Spirit. That is why Paul told the Ephesians to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The word “eager” means to be zealous and work hard at or do one’s best to maintain unity. Paul gives a prerequisite in verse 2, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”
Because unity is so important for the spread of the gospel, Paul addresses this issue in different ways as in 1 Corinthians 1:10. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
Each church had their own issues that caused disunity and Paul is careful not to make general statements but addresses specific issues that cause disunity. Since this subject is so important and directly affects the effective spread of the gospel, we will look at this subject again tomorrow.
We are able to look back now as the training in Jos, Nigeria is finished. To all who prayed for this event, we say “THANK YOU!” As you can see from the picture, there are many reasons to thank the Lord for what He is doing in a country that is torn by unrest and where persecution is real.
Jonathan has reflected on the steps that led up to this moment. From the beginning of this ministry, we have desired to make nothing of ourselves but seriously pass on to “faithful Timothys” principles of Scripture that are the foundation of the Early Church and how it expanded so rapidly.
Putting into practice 2 Timothy 2:2 means more than just passing on “the doctrine of the faith.” It is also encouraging and praying for each person we train. In the words of Jonathan, “there is no greater ministry in the Kingdom than to encourage, pray for, and labor for building up others. We can look at each of you [mentors] and see how God has you here with us, spurring us on to go for the goal; our high calling in Christ.”
Our partnership with others is only for the advancement of the Gospel among the forgotten of this world, those that have never been reached with the gospel of Jesus. We are so grateful for God using us in a small way in Nigeria. May He multiply this work for His glory.
“I met Shadrach today. He was thrown out of his village and disowned by his parents as a child because they blamed him for bad things that happened to his family. This is a common practice and one of the reasons why there are so many children living on the streets.
He is standing in front of a building that he would sneak in and try to sleep in as a boy. He was taken in by an orphanage and came to know the Lord Jesus as his Savior. Now he has a ministry that takes Bibles to places that they are not allowed. What an awesome story of redemption. He also ministers to boys who have experienced the same things he has gone through.
These are stories and reasons why we are here sharing the Gospel; helping to fan into flame what God is already doing while also encouraging, equipping, and empowering local leaders to go to places that have not heard the gospel. At the same time, we want them to establish strong and upright churches. Please continue to pray for the trainings as we wrap up our time in Jos and head north on Monday morning to Bauchi. I identify with Paul’s words, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things” (Ephesians 3:8–9).” (Jonathan)
Becoming more effective in prayer is one of my deep desires. I find that certain habits I get into when praying for others may miss the divine purpose for that person, church or world view. Specifically, in connection with mission work and our training around the world, Tim sent me a list of prayer requests that should mark our prayers for those in the harvest field.
“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:2).
The first objective and desire in our prayers should be that the gospel, “the word of the Lord” spread in such a way that it is honored. Satan is set against this because the “Word of the Lord” is a direct representation of Christ who is the Word (John 1:1). That being so, we must ask God to deliver His servants from “wicked and evil men.” They carry the Word that contains life.
“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). Those on the front lines of the world who carry the gospel and principles of Scripture need strengthening so they remain steadfast in their call. Let us pray for those on the field with these biblical desires.
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