SEND U blog

Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Evangelism Page 1 of 2

What is God doing through the COVID-19 crisis?

Disruption will be followed by sowing

What is God doing?

When we face a major disruption to our lives and ministries, we often ask ourselves what God might be intending to do through this disruption. I am sure that many of you have been asking yourselves that question over the past few weeks. We have seen the COVID-19 virus spread throughout the world, infecting hundreds of thousands and severely disrupting our day-to-day lives. After a few weeks of dealing with travel bans, we are now seeing country after country implementing lock-downs, closing schools, and telling churches that they can no longer meet in person. What is God doing through all this? How is this an answer to our prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven”?

A parable from farming

A few days ago, I was reading a short parable in chapter 28 of the book of Isaiah.

When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil? When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way.  Is 28:24-26.

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Why did Jesus prohibit his disciples from going to the least reached?

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. – Matthew 10:5–6

Why did Jesus not send his disciples to Gentiles and Samaritans? The Gentiles were the people who knew the least about the true God. From a missiological standpoint, they were the least reached. The Samaritans knew something of the Law but were not accepted as genuine worshippers of the God of Israel. They were also unreached and proved to be among the most responsive to Jesus’ message. Among them, Jesus saw one of his greatest harvests (John 4:35-42).

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Teaching to Trust and Obey

There is a lot of emphasis on obedience in discipleship today and rightly so. Obedience-oriented discipleship has its roots in the Great Commission. Jesus said part of making disciples is, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20a ESV). However, some advocates of obedience-oriented discipleship seem to minimize knowledge and belief. The dominant question in many discovery Bible study approaches is “What do we need to obey?”. I suggest that we add the question: “What do we need to believe (trust)?” I believe it is reductionistic to separate these questions. It can lead to misunderstanding, specifically leading to merit-based religion. It is a false dichotomy to center discipleship either in trust (faith) or in obedience. Both doctrinal knowledge and practice are part of healthy discipleship.

The Bible keeps faith (trust) and obedience together. In Romans 1:5, Paul says the aim of his apostleship was to bring about “the obedience of faith.” Douglas Moo, commenting on this verse, writes,

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Talking with Muslims about faith

In my colleague’s review of the book, Dialogical Apologetics, in this blog, Gary Ridley noted that dialogue with adherents of other religions has often been seen as mutually incompatible with evangelism.  Dialogue has been used to describe inter-religious discussions in which evangelism is not seen as necessary or even a desirable goal. The book Gary reviewed points to another way of viewing that dialogue.

I would like to extend that conversation to focus particularly on dialogue with adherents of the Islamic faith. Unknown to most of us,  including myself until recently, Christians have a very long history of these interactions, extending back for many centuries.

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Keeping Evangelism and Discipleship together

During my college years I was involved in a coffee house ministry that reached out to street people in Worcester, Massachusetts. Many who dropped in were under the influence of drugs and alcohol. One of the evangelists said to me that if he could just get someone to say the sinner’s prayer (even if they were drunk), there was one more on the way to heaven. This was certainly an extreme separation of evangelism and discipleship, certainly also a distortion of evangelism. In the 1970’s I often observed and participated in evangelism that had little emphasis on discipleship. Now some talk about discipleship before conversion. So the pendulum swings.

I have heard presentations on discipleship that did not even mention the cross and the resurrection. Perhaps that was assumed. But the cross and resurrection are matters of “first importance” that Paul reminds the Corinthians of in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:

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Elenctics

About 35 years ago I heard Dr. Sam Rowen lecture on elenctics.  The term is seldom used in missiology today and the concept behind it gets little press. There is, however, an article on elenctics in the Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, (p. 307,8). The chief proponent of elenctics is J. H. Bavinck in his book, An Introduction to the Science of Missions (1960). J.H. Bavinck (1895-1964) was a missiologist in the Dutch Calvinist tradition.

Elenctics, in Christianity, is a division of practical theology concerned with persuading people of other faiths (or no faith) of the truth of the Gospel message, with an end to producing in them an awareness of, and sense of guilt for, their sins, a recognition of their need for God’s forgiveness, repentance (i.e. the disposition to turn away from their sin) and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Wikipedia

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Plans that seem like nothing

It is that time of year again, when we are asked to develop annual ministry plans for the coming year. We dream about what we would like to see happen in 2017 – and then we face the reality of our limited financial and people resources.  We do not want to discount what God can do, and so we seek to set goals that call for faith and utter dependence upon God.

But we are also told to make sure that our annual goals are SMART:

  • S – Strategic (How clearly does it propel our vision forward?)
  • M – Measurable (How will we know when we have completed the goal?)
  • A – Ambitious (a faith-stretch) (Does it require us to depend on God?)
  • R – Realistic (Do we have at least a rough idea for how we could work towards accomplishing it?)
  • T – Time-bound (Have we determined a deadline for completing the goal?)

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