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Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

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Follow-up of church plants

Follow-up: Making sure they get the Gospel right

As I said in a previous blog post, follow-up is an important aspect of the missionary task — not just follow-up with individual new believers, but follow-up with churches that have been planted. I want to look at several of Paul’s epistles to see how Paul did this follow-up for churches he planted.

Galatians provides us with an example of the need for church-planting follow-up, as well as a model of how to do it. Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia was probably written about a year after he and Barnabas planted those churches on their first missionary journey in Acts 13 and 14.  Elders had already been appointed (Acts 14:21-23). The disciples had been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52). Yet, a year later the purity of the gospel was under attack.

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Do the Work of an Evangelist

In Paul’s final charge to Timothy, he instructs him to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). The word “evangelist” only occurs three times in the New Testament: Acts 21:8 as a description of Philip, Ephesians 4:11 as one of the gifts to the church, and here in 2 Timothy 4:5. There is not enough data to conclude that there was a distinct office of evangelist in the New Testament. What is clear, though, is that the evangelist proclaimed the gospel. “Evangel” represents the Greek word for gospel. Speaking and living out the gospel was essential to Timothy’s and to our ministry.

In a 1992 article in Evangelical Quarterly, Alastair Campbell explores the meaning of “doing the work of an evangelist.” He examines each of the passages above. He notes that in each case the evangelist explained the Scriptures. Philip explained Isaiah 53 to the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). The evangelist in Ephesians 4:11 is one of the gifts to the church for equipping, building up the body of Christ towards maturity. In 2 Timothy 4:5 the work of an evangelist is mentioned in the context of Paul’s charge to Timothy to preach the word. Campbell concludes his study:

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Suffering for the Gospel without Shame

Most people want to avoid suffering. Yet, in this fallen world it is a reality of life. Suffering is a significant theme in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Commentator, William Mounce, writes, “the theme of suffering ties almost all of the epistle together” (Pastoral Epistles, 474). Each chapter of the letter has something to say about suffering. The suffering Paul writes about is suffering for the gospel associated with persecution.

Shame is often associated with suffering, but Paul exhorts Timothy not to be ashamed when suffering for the gospel (2 Tim. 1:8). How is it possible to suffer for the gospel without shame? It is by the power of God. Timothy’s sincere faith (2 Tim. 1:5) together with fanning into flame his spiritual gift (1:6) empowers him to not be ashamed. God has given us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (1:7). Timothy can suffer for the gospel without shame because God’s power is displayed in the gospel. Paul writes to Timothy:

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Behavior in the Household of God

In my last post in this series on the letters to Timothy and Titus, the focus was on Paul’s description of the church as the household of God. Paul’s description keeps the relational dynamics of a household together with standing firm for the truth of the gospel. Paul is writing to Timothy to inform him how Christians should conduct themselves in God’s household. In this post, I will focus on behavior in the household of God.

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth. (1 Timothy 3:14,15 ESV)

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Book Review: Prepared by Grace, for Grace.

INTRODUCTION:

Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Way of Leading Sinners to Christ by [Beeke, Joel R., Smalley, Paul M.]

Historical theology does not often get a place at the table in missiological discussions. Its neglect can leave us at the mercy of current thinking and trends. Reading theologians from other eras guards us against our blind spots. Other eras have their blind spots too but they are usually different than ours. Historical theology is a safeguard against cultural bias. The book that I was asked to review looks at the Puritans, whose works I have spent a lot of time reading.

Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley have written a book titled, Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Ordinary Way of Leading Sinners to Christ (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013). The volume deals with an issue central to missiology. The authors write in the introduction:

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Worldviews are interpreting your stories

In communicating the gospel message, whether through Bible stories or Discovery Bible Studies, we need to be aware that our hearers will interpret what they hear through their worldviews. In a 1993 issue of the MARC Newsletter, Bryant Myers wrote about what happened after showing the Jesus Film in a Fulani village in Africa:

The white missionary walked back to the village with the women, listening to their animated conversation. Something didn’t make sense. “What was it that so captivated your attention?” He asked.

“The Christian man from the coast who made the magic!” they exclaimed. Confused, he asked, “What magic?”

“We’ve never seen a shaman who had the power to make people get up and move about on a sheet and talk,” they explained.

What message had the village women heard? From the point of view of the missionaries showing the Jesus film, they had heard the good news about Jesus Christ, but most of the women talked about magic and power. The message that they took away was that the West African Christians from the city had a magic more powerful than any they had ever seen.

Bryant Myers, “What Message did they receive?” MARC Newsletter, December 1993, 3.

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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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