ANOTHER SYMPTOM TO OBSERVE
Most missions and churches in the third world are not self-sustaining. Most do not meet their own needs and continue to appeal for more money and resources from the West. There is an unrealistic and unbiblical fear that without foreign support their church or mission will surely cease to exist. The diagram below uses the US and Asia as an example picturing this dependency on money.
As you can see, when a ministry, mission or church is built or connected with money, then its ‘lifeblood’ can become money. Therefore, when the money stops, the ministry stops. Money can become a substitute for the Holy Spirit and cause the mighty weapons of God to become powerless. When the church is connected to the Holy Spirit it is unstoppable and is a powerful force that the gates of hell cannot stop (Matthew 16:18). Note: One purpose of this course is to help us return to the way of Christ, the way of the Holy Spirit, and the apostles so that the church today can be liberated from this type of dependency and become an unstoppable force in the world today. The Apostle Paul’s desire for the Thessalonians was that they would walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one except the Holy Spirit (I Thessalonians 4:8, 12). Keep in mind, if you are going to plant a typical ‘Western Church’, then you will need money.
The greatest movements of God today are where money is not involved. Persons may not have all the modern technology and conveniences we do, but they are not needed when the Holy Spirit is working powerfully in the souls of people. His work is always spontaneous, free from traditions, and transforming. Is this what you want to experience?
Today’s churches, for the most part, are stagnant and weak in comparison to the Early Church in Acts. Below are two disquieting symptoms we see in many of today’s churches and missions. First we will observe these symptoms and then ask you to find solutions to these problems.
1. We see very little impact in the community and beyond (Acts 17:6). Most churches are not multiplying, disciples are not increasing and the Word of the Lord is not spreading like it did in the Early Church (Acts 6:7). Look at the map on June 24th and observe the dates attached to the geographical progress of the spread of the gospel.
2. We have not succeeded in planting truly indigenous churches. In most countries outside of the West, the Christian faith is still considered a foreign religion. The diagram below helps explain this problem. For instance, in the early Jewish Church the Jews wanted the Gentiles to become Jewish in order to enter the kingdom. In today’s western church, missionary efforts have sincerely, and maybe unconsciously, enticed new believers to become western in order to enter the kingdom.
Explanation: In the Early Church, Paul strongly opposed Gentiles becoming Jewish in order to enter the kingdom. Anything that added or took away from the gospel of grace was a false faith. Paul taught that it was “faith alone” in Christ which enabled a person to enter the kingdom. Paul’s strong stand on grace moved the gospel from a Jewish context to a Gentile context in only twenty to thirty years (Galatians 1:6-9). Today, the gospel has been in some countries for hundreds of years and is still not indigenous.
Therefore, there was a rapid expansion of the gospel from Jewish Jerusalem to the Gentile world. Remember Paul’s words, “For, He Himself (Christ) is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). Modern day missions have unintentionally and sincerely told us, or have given the impression, that new believers should look like the western church in order to be the church. Although God has used and continues to use modern day missions, there is no doubt our western methods have greatly hindered the expansion of the indigenous church, particularly among the third world people groups.
A third symptom will be discussed tomorrow.
Finally, Paul’s expanding strategy came as a result of the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to observe that Paul’s new converts naturally, or maybe we should say, “supernaturally,” became evangelists. Paul did not exhort people to become evangelists. Why? Because he knew when a person received the Spirit, he/she would begin to seek to bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus as seen in Acts. This is not surprising since the Spirit that we receive is the missionary Spirit—the Spirit of Jesus who came into the world to redeem lost souls to the Father. We learn from Acts how the churches were strengthened in faith and increased in number in Galatia, and how the Word of God spread to Macedonia and Achaia from Thessalonica (see 1 Thessalonians 1:5-9), and how the gospel spread throughout neighboring countries from Ephesus. Historically, every great revival, whether the Welsh or Haystack or South Korea resulted in evangelism and obedience to the Great Commission.
Paul led these new believers to understand the importance of the Spirit of Christ, whom they willingly submitted to. He set for them an example that was in accord with the mind of Christ. Paul was persuaded that the indwelling Spirit of Christ in His power and passion would enable the church to expand. When the foundation of the church is not properly laid, I believe that the evangelistic Spirit is quenched resulting in a stagnant church. This is yet another compelling reason to use Paul’s proven model and method of training and equipping. We are told to follow or imitate Paul as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
EQUIPPING CHURCHES - PAUL'S METHOD
The third element of Paul’s strategy was equipping churches that were planted. Normally Paul preached in a place for months and then left behind an indigenous church capable of growth and expansion, with qualified elders for equipping the saints for ministry. This process included grave risks, but Paul had such faith in Christ and the Holy Spirit that he did not shrink from taking the risks. Many times Paul left fledgling churches and elders with a simple system of gospel teaching, oversight or shepherding criteria and two ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) with no fixed standard or form for meetings or gatherings, worship or preaching.
Paul taught the common people, many of whom were unable to read, by using the Old Testament and what the apostles had seen with their eyes and heard with their ears. The simplicity and brevity of his gospel teaching constituted its power. By his leaving, the church was forced to think, speak, and serve on its own, although they were not totally free from the need for guidance and growth. He left elders with basic character, spiritual qualifications, and instructions on teaching and practicing sound doctrine.
Frequently, churches today are overly dependent on the one person who started that church or the “one pastor” who serves there. Often converts remain reliant upon that one pastor or apostle and his successor for generations. When Paul left a church in a timely manner, it gave the church leaders the opportunity to step into their proper roles and responsibilities, forcing them to realize that they could not depend upon the Apostle Paul.
Today, we are not training believers to use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given them. We over-emphasize intellectual qualifications of leaders by relying heavily on artificial standards of formal education. Many times these worldly standards can even become a requirement for ministry and leadership.
The new church should depend upon its own resources and more importantly, upon God. If any missionary today established a church like Paul, he might be told that his methods were hopeless and reckless. Yet the facts remain clear, Paul was the most successful founder of churches that this world has ever known. This affirms the power and completeness of his message and method.
The second element of Paul’s strategy was establishing. Paul established indigenous churches that were self-sustaining and could stand on their own. Instead of looking for support, these churches learned to depend on God and to not only share generously among themselves but with other churches. Paul’s example of supporting himself by his own hands was one of the reasons these churches quickly learned to become self-sustaining. Paul was very careful to avoid any appearance of financial profiting or having financial motives from his ministry.
Today, many of our churches and mission organizations have become financial institutions rather than the living Body of Christ. We commonly hear that organizations are unable to plant churches, to extend their missions, or to support their training institutions without financial assistance. This is because they have learned to depend on money rather than the Lord. Money subsidies create religious establishments that subsequently produce dependent converts who learn only to rely upon money instead of the Lord and the Holy Spirit.
Traditionally the idea has been that the stability of the church depends upon owning land, the erection of a building, or being financially secure. When we have secured a building or have adequate financial support, we tend to think a church or mission is firmly established and approved by God. But, in reality, buildings and money have absolutely no power to produce spiritual fruit and can actually hinder spiritual results.
The Early Church met in homes (Acts 2:46), upper rooms (1:13; 20:8), or a place of prayer (16:13). The greatest advertisement of their faith was not a building, but themselves (4:13; 16:25). Have we placed our investment where it will have the greatest impact?
EVANGELIZING - PAUL'S METHOD
Paul’s evangelizing consisted of preaching a pure gospel; “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (1 Cor. 2:2; Ro. 1:16). Paul’s supreme subject was the Cross along with repentance and faith alone, not philosophy or psychology or some program attempting to be relevant or tolerant to the culture. There was always an air of expectation pervading his preaching. His message stood alone. If people rejected him and his message, he shook the dust off his feet and moved on to find more receptive hearts where God was at work. If we continue to preach the gospel where God is not at work, we degrade it to the level of merely educating people’s intellect.
Another aspect of Paul’s evangelizing was not to preach the gospel to every person in a particular area by himself. Today we send out individuals and teams that try to personally reach as many individuals in an area as possible by sharing the gospel. But by neglecting to use Paul’s strategy of starting churches that are capable of spreading the gospel, we are severely limited in what a single person or team can do. Paul’s goal was to establish reproducing churches that displayed the life of Christ in strategic areas. Such churches exist today, but are we utilizing them in our evangelistic strategies? It was from these churches located in key centers of intellectual and commercial activity that the gospel spread in every direction.
Thessalonica is a prime example. “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere” (1 Thessalonians 1:8). In Acts, it says twice that Paul “preached boldly” (9:27-28), twice that he “preached the gospel” (14:7, 21; 16:10), and once that he was “preaching the word of the Lord” (15:35). This was mostly in strategic cities and in public places such as the synagogue. Eight times Paul “reasoned” (to address or make a speech in a formal setting) so as to meet people of influence where they were. And so churches were planted and the gospel spread through such persons.
This strategy works because God the Spirit was using it in power.
Consider that in just a little over ten years, Paul established the church in four provinces: Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia. Prior to AD 47 there were no churches in these provinces, but by AD 57 Paul spoke of his work there as being completed according to Romans 15:19-20.
Apostles today may have gained a greater number of converts than Paul, but, unfortunately few have established growing churches like Paul did. Many apostles and church planters have traveled from place to place without any biblical plan or strategy. For the most part, modern day apostles have neither understood nor practiced Paul’s method of church planting and establishing.
But, some might say, “Things were different in Paul’s day.” Then one must ask the question, “Did Paul’s situation contribute to his success?” Objectively, one must admit that Paul’s converts were born and raised in similar social environments as we see in the world today. In Paul’s day, human sacrifice was common and belief in witchcraft and demons was universal. It was the immutable Spirit of Christ that enabled the apostles to banish these demons from hearts. Deliverance came not by denial, but by conquest through preaching the supremacy of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit! So, it is impossible to argue objectively that Paul’s environment had any advantage or disadvantage over our world today; if anything, it was a disadvantage based on our methodology today. Study the map below and ask, ‘Why is this not happening today’?
Paul’s Missionary Journeys:
· First: 2544 Kilometers, 1581 Miles
· Second: 4908 Kilometers, 3050 Miles
· Third: 5308 Kilometers, 3350 Miles
· Jerusalem to Rome: 5000 Kilometers, 3100 Miles
UPDATE FROM QUITO, ECUADOR
As specific events unfold, it is our desire to bring you updates of what is taking place in this ministry. There is clearly a movement of God in Ecuador that is gaining momentum and could easily affect the whole of Central and South America. The following is in Tim’s own words.
“Getting ready to leave after one of the best trips I have ever experienced; it was JOINING GOD AT WORK! We met with a group of pastors this morning who have completed the manual, God’s Plan for His Church (GPHC). One was a couple that missed the graduation. They are both retired PHD teachers. You should see their chapter 7 project. And they are putting what they learned into practice by starting a church having their first meeting this weekend.”
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15–16). We ask you to follow Paul’s example and pray for these believers in Ecuador, that God will use what He has planted in their hearts to become fruitful far beyond their borders. Pray that the Holy Spirit will deepen their understanding of the New Testament principles of the church they have discovered and effectively use them for God’s glory.
KNOCK, KNOCK, IS ANYBODY THERE?
It is hard to imagine your closest Friend, the one who saved your life, standing at the door knocking again and again, waiting for you to answer. You hear the knocking, but there are a thousand reasons racing through your mind why you can’t stir yourself to open the door.
Are you as complacent as the Laodicean church who said, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” (Revelation 3:17). The state of being self-satisfied is the most dangerous condition to be in for a Christian. There is no thirst, no hunger, no feeling of need in the heart. In response to this condition Jesus says, ‘you don’t realize your true state of heart’, “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked”. Then Jesus gives counsel to buy from Him what we really need, “gold refined by fire [pure gold], so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (3:18). This is the perfect medication for a self-satisfied heart.
The ONE THING Jesus is after with us and the church is repentance. There will never be change and we will never let the Lord into the inner room of our hearts unless we are willing to repent. We often make excuses for our condition and blame others, while Jesus stands at my door and knocks, and knocks, and knocks. If we open the door of our hearts, Jesus will come in and explain where we need to humble ourselves and repent of being self-centered and self-sufficient; leaving Him outside. Not only will He make it very clear what my condition is, He will supply what I really need in a fresh new fellowship with Him.
“Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me” (3:20). The handle is on your side of the door!
ONE QUESTION THREE TIMES
I know how Peter felt. Many times, my father would ask me the same question several times to see if I was hiding something or not giving him all the facts. When the same question is asked over and over, we become nervous and agitated that our first answer was not enough to satisfy the question. If we are honest, many times we answer in a way that gives just enough information to satisfy the person asking the question, but we are not letting our hearts be truly examined by the Lord.
Jesus was doing this with Peter on the eve of leaving the disciples and returning to the Father. It was critical that Jesus leave the work in the hands of faithful men who would not turn and run in the face of a little trouble as they did at Jesus’ trial. There had to be a solid foundation at the level of their hearts.
The most important question Jesus could ask Peter was, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” (John 21:15-17). Jesus was pursuing ONE THING with Peter; his love for the Lord. Why didn’t Jesus ask some question about what he would do in ministry or whether he would be faithful under pressure? The foundation for service is not ability or the intentions of the heart. Nor is service for the Lord done well by how much education we have or how much pay we receive, or by the title behind our name. The ONE THING that will guarantee faithfulness in service is our deep love for the Lord through an intimate relationship with Him. This was the point of Jesus’ persistent question to Peter, “do you love Me?”
He is asking this question of you! How will you answer?
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