Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

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Book Review: Evangelism as Exiles

Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission As Strangers In Our Own Land by [Clark, Elliot]In March 2019 The Gospel Coalition published Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission as Strangers in Our Own Land by Elliot Clark. The Gospel Coalition does not publish a lot of monographs, so this one caught my attention. I had also been thinking a lot about Paul’s instruction to Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (see earlier post). Clark has served a number of years in a central Asian country where Christianity is a very small minority, so he has lived as a stranger. The book is focused on the church in North America in light of its diminished standing in the public square. Often reflecting on his experience in central Asia, Clark encourages us to see ourselves as exiles and strangers in our own land.

The book draws principles from the book if 1 Peter.

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)

Photo by John Matychuk on Unsplash

Rebuking False Doctrine

The original temptation was framed “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1 ESV). Throughout biblical and church history, false doctrine surfaces whenever God’s Word is questioned and other sources of doctrine/teaching are embraced. Evangelical Christianity believes that the Bible is the supreme and final authority in matters of faith and conduct. The Bible is what God actually says. False doctrine/teaching is departing from what the Bible affirms. Not all doctrinal matters have the same critical importance and we must practice what Al Mohler calls “theological triage” (see my post on “How do we decide whom we can work with”). But first-level doctrines define Christianity and departure from the Bible’s teaching on these matters results in a different religion. So false doctrine is an important matter.

False doctrine/teaching is a prominent theme in Paul’s letters to his church-planting partners, Timothy and Titus, yet we never find the phrase “false doctrine” or “false teaching.” He does describe it as “what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20). Paul simply refers to the false teaching as a “different doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3, 6:3) or sums it up as “whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:10). In Galatians 1:6-9, Paul warns against a “different gospel.” There is an authoritative message of the Apostles that is not to be changed and is to be guarded and passed on to others. A “different gospel” or a “different doctrine” is to be avoided and rebuked vigorously.

Teaching Doctrine in Disciple-making: Academic elective or life-giving essential?

In contemporary literature on church planting and disciple-making doctrine is often downplayed. Doctrine is seen as secondary or primarily the intellectual concern of academics. But Paul put great emphasis on doctrine when he wrote to his church planting partners, Timothy and Titus. Kevin Vanhoozer writes,

Christian doctrine is the disciple’s meat and drink. You may think that I am overemphasizing the role of doctrine in the Christian life because I am a theologian, but doctrine is biblical. The Greek term didaskalia (teaching; doctrine) occurs twenty-one times in the New Testament. Fifteen of these occurrences are found in the Pastoral Epistles alone, which strongly suggests that doctrine finds its fitting place in the church, as a means to pastor congregations and teach disciples. Indeed, Paul says Timothy’s duty is to teach (didaskô, 1 Tim 4:11; 6:2).

Vanhoozer, Hearers and Doers, 206. See book review on this blog.

Timothy and Titus as Models

In  a previous post we looked at how Paul identified himself as a preacher, apostle, and teacher of the gospel in the Pastoral Epistles. I suggested that today’s missionary identifies with Paul as preacher and teacher of the apostolic gospel. We are not apostles but preach and teach the message of the apostles recorded in Scripture. Timothy and Titus likewise were not apostles but served as coworkers with Paul and in the Pastoral Epistles were delegates of Paul. So we share an affinity with Timothy and Titus as ministers under the authority of the apostles.

THE ROLE OF TIMOTHY AND TITUS

In writing about the role of Timothy and Titus, Andreas Köstenberger notes:

Timothy and Titus are often viewed as pastors of local congregations. However, as mentioned, their role is not actually that of permanent, resident pastor of a church. Rather, these men serve as Paul’s apostolic delegates who are temporarily assigned to their present location in order to deal with particular problems that have arisen in their respective churches and require special attention.

Andreas J. Köstenberger, 2017, Commentary on 1-2 Timothy and Titus, p 8

Missionary Identity according to Paul

The letters to Timothy and Titus are important for understanding Paul’s perspective on missions and his own identity as a missionary. Chaio Ek Ho concludes his article on the Pastoral Epistles:

From our examination of the letters in the PE [Pastoral Epistles], we have seen how these letters articulate an underlying missionary outlook and a theology of mission à la Paul. (Chaio Ek Ho, “Mission in the Pastoral Epistles,” Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles, ed. by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Terry L. Wilder, 2010, p267.

Top 10 definitions of missionary success revisited

The seventh post in a series on defining success for a missionary. Part 1 demonstrated that we, like Paul, can be confident in our ministry, despite all our detractors and critics. In Part 2, we saw in 2 Corinthians that Paul repeats the phrase “commend ourselves,” to identify key criteria that he uses to demonstrate that his ministry is credible and successful. In the third, fourth and fifth posts, we looked more closely at Paul’s criteria of successful ministry, that of clearly proclaiming the Gospel, seeing lives changed by God’s power through our ministry, and joyfully enduring hardships in ministry.  In the sixth post, we look at some typical, yet flawed definition of success.

Last week, I suggested that we as missionaries are pretty adept at coming up with ways of determining whether we have been “good missionaries.”   I gave my top 10, many of them coming from my own experience.   Any one want to add to this list?   No need to stop at ten!

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