Monday, 24 October 2011

Evangelist's Care for his Spiritual Children

Praying and preaching go hand in hand. I do not just mean
by this that .our sermons must be begotten and nurtured by
prayer, or that we must pray for ourselves before we mount
the pUlpit steps, but that we must pray for those to whom we
preach. It cannot have escaped us how the Lord.] esus would
spend the day preaching and teaching, and then go out into
the hills alone to pray for those to whom He had ministered;
nor with what regularity Paul assured his friends whom he
instructed in his Epistles that he also prayed for them, yes, all
of them, and that without ceasing. This is the balanced ministry,
to 'devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the
.And only love will make us thus diligent, for prayer is hard
work and secret work. Because it is an exacting ministry, we
shall make time for it only if we love people enough not to'
deny them its benefit. Because it is secret and therefore unrewarded
by men, we shall undertake it only if we long for
their spiritual welfare more than for their thanks. Paul could
write: 'Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for
Israel is, that they might be saved." This is the meaning' of
prayer. It is an expression of the heart's desire. Intercession
is impossible without love. Let Richard Baxter put it succinctly
for us: 'Prayer must carry on our work as well as preaching:
he preacheth not heartily to his people, that will not pray
for them."
We do not have this love for people by nature; we can ·receive
it only by grace. By nature we are selfish, lazy, and
hungry for the praise of men. There is only one way to learn
to love, and that is, to yearn for people, in Paul's phrase, 'with
the affection of Christ Jesus'.' If His unsearchable, unquenchable
love for people could fill us, we could love them with
His love. And such love, utterly un-self-regarding, preoccupied
only with the positive good of others even at a cost to ourselves,
will make us· care for our people, as a father cares for
his children. Such love will make us understanding and gentle,
simple and earnest, consistent in our example and conscientious
in our prayers.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Importance of Prayer in Evangelism By John Godson

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:5-6).

Prayer is communion with God. It is going into God’s presence to be with him. Prayer is bringing God and his resources into our earthly realities. Prayer is drawing upon divine resources to influence human reality. Prayer is breathing the breath of heaven. It is the master key to everything we have been called to do. Without it, our activities are empty, human and lack the breath of heaven. Our works will be temporal and will never last.

In evangelism, the need is even more acute. Evangelism is snatching souls from the grips of Satan and bringing them into God’s kingdom. This means conflict between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. Without deep, fervent and intense prayer, the results of our efforts will be meager and beggarly. Why should we pray? Why is prayer so important in the work of evangelism? Here are eight reasons.

1. The knowledge of God. The most important reason we need to pray is not just to evangelize; rather, it is to get to know God. Those who spend time with God know him better. Those who know their God shall be strong. Those who abide in God’s presence are those who bear fruit. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.”

2. Release of laborers. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” True laborers are released into the harvest through our prayers.

3. Evil forces opposing the harvest are bound. Evangelism is frontier spiritual warfare. It involves physically going into enemy territory and releasing prisoners. Satan is not just going to sit down and watch us do that. He is going to do everything in his power to stop us. That was why Jesus said in Mark 3:27, “No one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.” Jesus has given us power such that whatever we bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever we loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mathew 18:18). He also said in Luke 10:19, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.

4. Release of God’s presence and power for evangelism. Prayer, one of the greatest tools God has given us, is also the one that is the most neglected. Prayer releases God’s presence in our lives and empowers us as we reach out to others. A very modern illustration would be the mobile phone. If we use it continuously without charging it, there will come a time when the battery will die. No matter how expensive and how modern it is, it is useless unless you recharge it. Similarly, if we do not get charged, we are useless as a force in expanding God’s kingdom. A praying Christian is filled with God’s presence, power, boldness and unction. It is the anointing that breaks the yoke, not our eloquence and logic.

5. Prayer prepares us to receive answers. When we pray, we are brought to a spiritual level where we can receive answers to our prayers. A mass conversion of souls to a dead and worldly church is worse than if they had never heard the gospel. God touches and changes our hearts as we passionately pray for the harvest. We are prepared to love them and make sacrifices. Our coldness and indifference are turned into passion and enthusiasm for the lost. This creates a warm and loving spiritual atmosphere where these spiritual children can grow and flourish.

6. The fruits are lasting. Souls won through prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit are different from souls won out of human ingenuity, logic and wisdom. Such souls have come into a place of being born again spiritually. Jesus said in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We can use all the human and material resources we want and get results, but these results will be temporal and have no lasting spiritual impact. Prayer changes this reality.

7. We can also evangelize by praying for people. Do you know what will happen when we begin to really pray for our friends, neighbors and family? Do you know how they will feel when we ask them what we can pray for them about? Do you know what a testimony it will be when they receive answers to our prayers? Prayer is not just an indirect tool in evangelism, we can also evangelize by praying.

8. The example of Jesus. Jesus prayed and preached the gospel. It was his habit to wake up a great while before it was day to go to a solitary place to pray. He sometimes spent all night in prayer. He often separated himself to be alone with God. Jesus is our example. If Jesus, being the Son of God, needed to spend so much time in prayer, how much more do we need to spend time with God?

It is not enough to talk, write and read about prayer. We need to pray. The men and women God used in the annals of history had different qualities and came from different backgrounds; however, they had one thing in common: they prayed. We are living in a generation that has all the material resources needed to evangelize the world. So why have we not completed the task? Why has twenty-seven percent of the world never heard the gospel? Because we do not pray. Much evangelistic effort and money is wasted in the name of missions. We cannot accomplish what God has committed into our hands unless we make a full use of the resources (including prayer!) that he has put to our disposal.

Let us make prayer a conspicuous part of our lives. Let us cry out to God for help. Let us humble ourselves and declare our spiritual bankruptcy. Let us seek him with all our hearts. God will hearken. He will send revival. May God teach us what an infinite resource he has placed at our disposal. May he give us the faith and tenacity to take hold of him for our generation.

E.M. Bounds once said, “We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel....What the church needs today is…men whom the Holy Spirit can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men."

Let God work through us in prayer.

John Abraham Godson is a member of the Polish parliament. He came to Poland in 1993 as a missionary with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). He served as deputy chair of the Intercession Working Group of The Lausanne Movement between 2005 and 2010. He is married with four children. They make their home in Lodz, Central Poland

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

How Does Christian Hedonism Relate to Evangelism? John Piper

One of the basic premises of Christian Hedonism is that the joy which is our Christian duty to pursue does not reach its climax in a private communion with God. Rather, it reaches its fullest extent only when it is compounded by the joy of seeing others share in it with us. And these are not two different joys as if the good of man were somehow in competition with the glory of God. The sharing of a joy is that same joy in consummation.

Evangelism is a word used to describe the different ways God uses us, along with His Word and Spirit, to transform unbelievers into people whose great delight in life is to know and trust in him. Therefore, under God, our goal in evangelism is to be his instruments in creating new people who delight in God through Jesus Christ and who thus bring us great joy. There is no escape: if we, by God's grace, are successful in evangelism we will be happier. Our joy in God will be increased. Does this imply that we are only out to get notches on our fishing pole that we can boast about without really caring for the other person's good? No! It is that person's infinite and eternal welfare that makes us happy. The only boasting we care for is in the glorious grace of God. He is at work in us and in the new convert to make us gradually into the kind of people who love God more and who, therefore, will inevitably make each other glad.

Do we not admire people who have the virtues we value most? And is not admiration a tremendous pleasure? (Witness how people love to cheer and talk about their heroes.) Can you not then feel a desire kindling in your heart for God to use you to create out of unbelievers people who have the virtue you value the most—a joyful trust in God? It is a tragic thing to let so many people go on without admiring God. We could be enjoying their worship of God instead of lamenting the dishonor they do to him.

So evangelism is not necessarily aimed at people we like; it is aimed to create people we like—people we admire for their love of God. Evangelism is done in the hope of creating new people whom it will be a pleasure to be with because they admire most the one we admire most. There is every reason for a Christian Hedonist to bear witness to his faith and thus be like the Apostle John in his first letter, who said, “we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:4).

© Desiring God

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sowing to the flesh

To 'sow to the flesh' is to pander to it, to cosset, cuddle and
stroke it, instead of crucifying it. The seeds we sow are
largely thoughts and deeds. Every time we allow our mind to
harbour a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure
fantasy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh.
Every time we linger in bad company whose insidious influence we
know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to
be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature,
every time we take a risk which strains our self-control, we are
sowing, sowing, sowing to the flesh. Some Christians sow to the
flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness.John Stott

Monday, 3 October 2011

Generational Conflict in Ministry:D. A. Carson research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

'Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.Bob Dylan.

About five years after the Berlin wall came down and the communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe had mostly fallen or been transmuted into something rather different, I had the privilege of speaking at a conference for pastors in one of those formerly eastern-bloc countries. The numbers were not large. Most interesting was the way this group of men reflected a natural breakdown. They were clearly divided into two groups. The older group—say, over forty or forty-five—had served their small congregations under the former communist government. Few of them had been allowed to pursue any tertiary education, let alone formal theological training. Most of them had served in considerable poverty, learning to trust God for the food they and their families needed to survive. Some had been incarcerated for the sake of the gospel; all had been harassed. The men in the younger group—say, under forty or so—without exception were university graduates. Several had pursued formal theological education; two or three were beginning their doctorates. They were interested in ideas and in the rapidly evolving cultural developments taking place in their country now that their media were a good deal freer. Quite a number were engaged in university evangelism and wanted to talk about postmodern epistemology.

The older group viewed the younger men as untested, ignorant of the lessons learned by suffering, far too cerebral, dizzyingly scattered and ill-focused, cocky, impatient, even arrogant. The younger group viewed the older men as, at best, out of date: they had slipped past their “sell by” date as much as had the communist regimes. They were ill-trained, defined too narrowly by yesterday’s conflicts, unable to evangelize the new generation, vainly clutching to power, consumed rather more by tradition than by truth. And in very large measure, both sides were right.

More recently I spoke at a denominational meeting of ministers in a Western country. Again there was a generational breakdown, cast somewhat differently. The older men had, during the decades of their ministry, combated the old-fashioned liberalism that had threatened their denomination in their youth. Many of them had been converted out of rough backgrounds and subsequently built strong fences around their churches to keep out alcohol and sleaze of every sort. Most of their congregations were aging along with their ministers; only a handful of them were growing. They loved older hymns and patterns of worship. The younger men dressed in jeans, loved corporate worship where the music was at least 95 decibels, were interested in evangelism, and loved to talk to the ecclesiastically disaffected—homosexuals, self-proclaimed atheists, mystically orientated “spiritual” artists. Some were starting Bible studies, fledgling churches, in pubs. This group thought the older men were out of date, too defensive, unable to communicate with people under twenty-five without sounding stuffy and even condescending, much too linear and boring in their thinking, and largely unable to communicate in the digital world (except by emails, already largely dismissed as belonging to the age of dinosaurs), mere traditionalists. The older group thought the younger men were brash, disrespectful, far too enamored with what’s “in” and far too ignorant of a well-integrated theology, frenetic but not deep, energetic but not wise, and more than a little cocky.And in very large measure, both sides were right.

Doubtless there have always been generational conflicts of one sort or another. Arguably, however, in some ways they are becoming worse. There are at least two reasons for this. First, the rate of cultural change has sped up, making it far more difficult for older people to empathize with a world so very different from the one in which they grew up three or four decades earlier, while making it far more difficult for younger people to empathize with a world in which people used typewriters and wired telephones and had never heard of Facebook or Twitter. Second, and far more important, the social dynamics of most Western cultures have been changing dramatically for decades. The Sixties tore huge breaches into the fabric that had united young and old, assigning more and more authority to the young. The cult of youth and health that characterized the Eighties and Nineties, complete with hair transplants and liposuction, along with gated communities for the middle-class elderly and social welfare that meant families did not really have to care for, or even interact much with, the older generation, built a world in which integration across generational lines could be happily avoided. Even the new digital tools that facilitate interaction tend to enable people to link up with very similar people—very much unlike the way the church is supposed to be, bringing together very different redeemed people who have but one thing in common, Jesus Christ and his gospel. 1 Ideally, how should both sides act so as to honor Christ and advance the gospel?

1. Listen to criticism in a non-defensive way. This needs to be done on both sides of the divide. It is easy to label criticism as hostile or non-empathetic and write it off. Nevertheless the path of wisdom is to try to discern what validity the criticism may have and learn from it. It may be that some older pastors do not know very well how to communicate with a younger generation. How, then, could they strengthen their ministry in these domains? It may be that some younger pastors are brash and intemperate in speech, finding it easy to build a following out of the gift of the gab. How then might reflection on 1 Cor 2 modify their speech? Even well-intentioned criticism hurts enough that we are sometimes seduced into a defensive posture because we have forgotten that the wounds inflicted by a friend are faithful and helpful, but wisdom also listens carefully and respectfully even to disrespectful speech in order to learn lessons not otherwise picked up.

2. Be prepared to ask the question, “What are we doing in our church, especially in our public meetings, that is not mandated by Scripture and that may, however unwittingly, be functioning as a barrier to getting the gospel out?” That question is of course merely another way of probing the extent to which tradition has trumped Scripture. There is no value in changing a tradition merely for the sake of changing a tradition. The two tests buried in my question must be rigorously observed: (a) Is the tradition itself mandated by Scripture, or, in all fairness, is its connection with Scripture highly dubious? (b) Is the tradition helpful only to the traditionalists, while getting in the way of outreach?

Even when the question is asked, the answers are rarely easy or clear-cut. The answers may bear on, say, what we wear, styles of music, the order of service, what we do with our massive pulpit. In each case, the bearing of Scripture and tradition can lead to conflicting inferences. Obviously there is no specific biblical mandate for a large pulpit in the middle of the front, preferably elevated to ensure the minister is six feet above contradiction. Knowledge of historic disputes reminds us of the way this arrangement has functioned in the past: the Reformation taught us that not the “altar” 2 was to be central but the Word of God—so the large pulpits were installed in the center. In today’s climate, however, the very same furniture may signal something else to casual visitors—not the centrality of the Word, but the lecture hall, or talking down to others. How can one rightly emphasize the authority of the Word of God without, on the one hand, erecting unnecessary barriers, and without, on the other hand, turning the front of the building into a “stage” associated with entertainment and performance arts? Fine pastors may disagree on the prudential outworking of such reflections in their specific contexts. Unless the questions are addressed with ruthless rigor, however, unbending lines will be drawn and positions staked out that serve only to foster division, not thought.

3. Always focus most attention on the most important things, what Paul calls the matters of first importance—and that means the gospel, with all its rich intertwinings, its focus on Christ and his death and resurrection, its setting people right with God and its power to transform. So when we take a dislike of another’s ministry primarily because he belongs to that other generation, must we not first of all ask whether the man in question heralds the gospel? If so, the most precious kinship already exists and should be nurtured. This is not to say that every other consideration can be ignored. Some ministers are pretty poor at addressing homosexuals in a faithful and winsome way, at speaking the truth in love, at coping with the rising relativism without sounding angry all the time, at avoiding the unpretty habit of nurturing a smart mouth. But Paul in Phil 1 understands that whatever the shortcomings and confused motives of some ministers, if they preach Christ faithfully, he will cheer them on, and be grateful.

4. Work hard at developing and fostering good relations with those from the other generation. This means meeting with them, even if, initially at least, you don’t like them. It means listening patiently, explaining a different point of view with gentleness. It means that the new generation of ministers should be publicly thanking God for the older ministers, praying for them with respect and gratitude; it means that the older generations of ministers should be publicly thanking God for the new generation, seeking to encourage them while publicly praying for them. It means that ideally, disputes should be negotiated in person, winsomely, not by blogposts that are ill-tempered and capable of doing nothing more than ensuring deeper divisions by cheering on one’s supporters. It means shared meals, shared prayer meetings, shared discussions. It means younger men will seek out older men for their wisdom in a plethora of pastorally challenging situations; it means older men will be trying to find out what these younger men are doing effectively and well, and how they see the world and understand their culture in the light of Scripture. It means that younger men will listen carefully in order better to understand the past; it means that older men will listen carefully in order better to understand the present. It means humility of mind and heart, and a passion for the glory of God and the good of others.

1.^ On the changing social dynamics, it is worth reading Matthew Shaffer, "Ages Apart: How modernity has separated the generations, and why we should care," National Review 68/11 (June 20, 2011): 35–37.
2.^"Altar"? What new covenant warrant is there for such terminology?