Monday, 21 November 2011

Our Response To God's Goodness-What Can I do For You?

You have given everything to me
What can I do for You?
You have given me eyes to see
What can I do for You?

Pulled me out of bondage and You made me renewed inside
Filled up a hunger that had always been denied
Opened up a door no man can shut and You opened it up so wide
And You’ve chosen me to be among the few
What can I do for You?

You have laid down Your life for me
What can I do for You?
You have explained every mystery
What can I do for You?

Soon as a man is born, you know the sparks begin to fly
He gets wise in his own eyes and he’s made to believe a lie
Who would deliver him from the death he’s bound to die?
Well, You’ve done it all and there’s no more anyone can pretend to do
What can I do for You?

You have given all there is to give
What can I do for You?
You have given me life to live
How can I live for You?

I know all about poison, I know all about fiery darts
I don’t care how rough the road is, show me where it starts
Whatever pleases You, tell it to my heart
Well, I don’t deserve it but I sure did make it through
What can I do for You?

Copyright © 1980 by Special Rider Music

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Each of the four gospels tells us that Jesus prayed, but it is John’s gospel which reveals, most fully, how he prayed. This reaches a climax in the great prayer recorded in John 17.

‘After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father” (v1)
Jesus looks up and says ‘Abba’, the unique word expressing his intimate and reverent relationship with God. This is also the heart of all Christian prayer. By grace we share Jesus’ relationship with the Father. It is also the heart of mission, as we long for women and men across our nations to come to the Father through him and learn to say the same.

But this is also the classic passage linking mission and unity. “I ask … that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’ (v20-21) The inseparable connection between mission and unity is expressed in prayer. How then should those committed to mission in unity pray? How can our prayer be shaped by his prayer?

This prayer has seven petitions – two for Jesus himself, three for his disciples, and two for those who will become disciples through them.

The first petition is ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.’ (v1)

Can we pray to be glorified? Only if we understand that, for him, to be glorified means to be empowered to go to the cross. In John’s gospel Jesus’ glorification is his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension all rolled into one. He prays this prayer on the eve of his crucifixion. His only motive is the Father’s glory; ‘that the Son may glorify you’. The only authentic motive for us to ask for God’s glory, is so that we may glorify him. ‘Let you glory fall’ is a prayer that we may give ourselves up in his service. ‘Glorify me’ has nothing to do with my glory, but God’s.

Note also that ‘glory’ is demonstrated in the way the Father and the Son continually honour, or give glory to, one another. Jesus’ only concern is the Father and the Father’s will. All the Father’s delight is in Jesus and he has given all authority to his Son. Lesslie Newbigin wrote that ‘The glory of God is a reciprocal relationship: it is something forever freely given . Reciprocal honour and respect is the mark of good church, and inter church, relationships too.

1. So we pray that we, also, will glorify the Father

The second petition is, ‘Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.’ (v5)

In effect he prays, ‘Father, I can come home now. I have finished the work you gave me to do.’ (v4)

It is his desire to reproduce in us the same faithfulness and perseverance, which sees the work he has given us through to the end. This is wonderfully demonstrated in the ministry of St, Paul. In his last will and testament (sometimes known as 2Timothy) he says ‘As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.’ (2Tim. 4:6-8)

But Jesus has no wish to come home ‘alone. Later in the prayer he says ‘Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.’ (v24) As missioners and evangelists, that has to be our prayer also,, not to come home to the Father alone.

2. We pray for the grace and strength to finish the work.

Then Jesus prays for the disciples.
‘Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.’ (v11)

My colleague in York, Canon David Watson, wrote ‘The true basis for all fellowship is when two or more persons kneel at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ, trusting wholly in his mercy and love.’ Unity is a gift of God through the cross, but it needs divine protection. The unity of believers is a prime target for spiritual assault. And when Christians fall out the Devil had had a victory. The preservation of unity is a priority for prayer. And unity isn’t simply the absence of discord. Jesus prays to the Father that we will be one as he and the Father are one. We have been given a costly gift, bought for us on the cross: the possibility of a life of mutual trust, mutual honour, and mutual sacrifice, in the service of Christ We need to guard it, and, like the divine hospitality of the Father and the Son, keep it wide open for others to join.

3. We pray for divine protection of our unity

The fourth petition is: ‘I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.’ (v15-16)

The prayer is that the Church is to be in the world but protected, not out of the world as a way of protecting ourselves. We are to be n the world, but outclassing the world. I sometimes think that many Christians believe the Bible says ‘He who is in the world is greater than he who is in you,’ rather than the other way round! Many Christians are fearful that the world will rub off on us, when we are meant to rub off on it! I must have read 1Corinthians dozens of times, before some verse in chapter five struck home. Paul says ‘I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons, not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one.’ (1Cor. 5:9-11) In other words we are to withdraw from Christians who live a double standard, but we are to associate with those whose way of life grieves or angers God, to offer then a better way! Just like the one called ‘a friend of sinners’ who said. ‘“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

4. We pray for the grace to permeate society with lives of Christian integrity

The fifth petition is ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth’ (v17-19)

Jesus prays, set them apart to serve your truth, equip them to live your truth, wherever I send them. We are a sent people. As the impact of Christendom fades, so the days of ‘come to us’ mission are largely over. The majority of the population of these nations no longer responds to the invitation. A third have never been connected to church. It is an alien culture to them. Another third used to have a connection and have chosen to break it; or at least to stop coming.
We need to go to them, not as a raiding party bringing them back, but to stay; and to plant culturally appropriate churches which engage God’s holy truth with their lives as they are now. In my work we call these new congregations and fellowships ‘fresh expressions of church’.

We are a sent people, an apostolic people, hearing the call to go.

5. We pray for the grace to live, share and embody God’s truth, wherever he sends us.

Then Jesus prays for those who will come to faith through the witness of his disciples.
Do we ever pray for those whom we do not yet know, but whom we will lead to Christ, or who will be led to Christ by those we lead to Christ. I realized I had never done so!

The sixth petition is “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’ (v20-21)

Jesus knows that the good news will be fruitful in his disciples’ ministries. He prays that their witness will create communities of love which draw even more people to faith, and which validate the claims Christians make, by the lives Christians live. We are to do the same. Our prayer is not just for a chain of witness where each leads others to faith. It is for communities of faith whose way of life demonstrates the love of God and the truth of the gospel

We are seeing the emergence of a new relationship between mission and unity. While it is always right to work towards unity so that our mission may have integrity, the more significant insight is that we deepen unity through sharing in mission together. Act together and so grow together.

6. We pray for the planting of churches which demonstrate the love of God

The final petition is ‘Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.’ (v24)

He longs for us, and all who believe in him, to be with him. Jesus longs for our company!
That is why he is about to go to the cross. He thinks we’re worth it His next prayer will be in Gethsemane.

7. We pray that we will share his love of lost men and women, so much, that we will sacrifice ourselves to have them in his presence with us.

We pray that we will glorify the Father
We pray for the grace and strength to finish the work.
We pray for divine protection of our unity
We pray for the grace to permeate society with lives of Christian integrity
We pray for the grace to live, share and embody God’s truth wherever he sends us
We pray for the planting of churches which demonstrate the love of God
We pray that we will share his love of lost men and women so much, that we will sacrifice ourselves to have them in his presence with us.

May the prayer of Jesus shape our prayer, and our lives in his service. Amen

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Lay Ministry Dynamic by Tim Keller

The growth of a big passive ‘middle’ happens to all churches as they grow larger. This growth in passivity weakens what I will call the “lay ministry dynamic.” That dynamic happens when a significant percentage of Christians engage in lay ministry “behaviors” because they are trained and coached—informally and personally—by the pastors and staff of the church. These lay ministry behaviors result in many new people, including many people without faith, being brought by Christian friends into the services and life of the church community.

I believe that it is in the collegiate model, in which congregations are led by lead pastors and their pastoral teams, that Redeemer has an opportunity to renew and strengthen that lay ministry dynamic. The highest priority is to again draw a significant percentage of church members into active ministry of the gospel with their relationships in the city. At the heart of the RENEW Campaign, we said that we were sending our lay people out into their neighborhoods to serve and reach their friends for Christ. We are reorganizing Redeemer into a network of neighborhood-based, generative congregations. Outreach and evangelism is on the front burner in this model, as is lay-driven ministry and evangelism. Redeemer began more as a “go and share” church, but evolved into more of a “come and see” church—come and hear the music, come see the masses of people, come listen to the teaching, come profit from the programs. Now we are going back from “come and see” to “go and share.”

Here are some examples of the kind of ‘lay ministry’ we want our people to be doing:

•Catherine prays for her friend Megan for months. Megan responds well to two short books on Christian subjects that Catherine has given her. Finally she invites and takes Megan to an evangelistic event in which Christian truth is presented. On the way home she fields Megan’s questions.
•Jack and Jill help their two sons, age 5 and 7, to do Scripture memory and learn a simple catechism. They field questions and help the boys understand what the texts mean.
•Fred has been going to a small group for months. At one point he realizes that he assesses the value of the group strictly on what he gets out of it. Instead, he begins to go each week by preparing well (studying the passage) and praying for the group. When he comes, he looks for every opportunity to help the Bible study leader by making good contributions, and for ways to speak the truth in love so that others are encouraged and helped to grow.
•Jim and Cynthia are both artists and are part of city wide Christian artists’ fellowship that is based in their local church. The fellowship is usually a discussion of the relationship of faith to art that assumes a Christian belief, but the artists have four events a year that will be either a gallery showing or a book event in which some very respectable artist gets a chance to talk about how his or her faith relates to their art to a general audience. Jim and Cynthia are very diligent in bringing non-Christian artists or art-appreciators to these events.
Notice that not all of these examples are directly evangelistic. Some are instances of the encouragement and building up of new believers, some are ways of spurring Christians on to greater growth in Christ, and others are cases of helping believers address particular problems in their lives. Nevertheless, each example is every-member-gospel ministry. That is, each example is a) organic—it is ministry that happens spontaneously, outside the organized programs of the church (even when making use of formal programs). b) Relational—it is ministry using informal, personal relationships. c) Word deploying—it is ministry of prayerfully bringing the Bible and gospel into connection with people’s lives. d) Active, not passive. Each person in these examples assumes personal responsibility for being a producer rather than only a consumer of ministry. For example, even though Fred continues to come to the small group as he always has, his mindset changed and he transformed from being a passive consumer of ministry to an active producer of ministry. Yes, direct evangelistic ministry is only one piece of this, but it will grow as every member Word ministry grows.

Lay Ministry Behaviors

Above is a set of brief case studies. Here is a more distilled set of what we will call “lay ministry behaviors.” This is not the same as ‘lay leadership’ in which your leaders have a job or responsibility in the church. It’s possible to have a duty as a volunteer but not contribute to every-member-gospel ministry. That consists of behaviors like the following. Notice that seven out of ten do not require as much knowledge as courage and compassion. Your lay people will carry them out if they feel empowered to do so through pastoral contact.

1.Let others know of your Christian faith and activities in natural ways (e.g. talking casually about church attendance and events).
2.Ask questions about other people’s beliefs and experiences with faith and church and simply listen appreciatively and sympathetically.
3.Describe briefly and naturally how you process some difficult personal problem—some misfortune or some mistreatment—by using your faith to help you get strength or grant forgiveness.
4.Offer to pray regularly for a friend, neighbor, or colleague who is facing a challenging situation.
5.Share your spiritual ‘narrative’—your testimony of Christian experience.
6.Offer books or recordings about Christian issues and discuss them.
7.Initiate a discussion about a friends’ biggest problem or objection to Christianity.
8.Invite friends to venues where they meet believers but don’t listen to gospel communication.
9.Offer and then read a part of the Bible together—preferably one of the gospels—to discuss the character of Jesus.
10.Invite friends to venues where they hear the gospel communicated. (#8 may be more intense/demanding for the Christian than #9, but for many non-believers, #8 is less intense/demanding than #9—going to some Christian event.)
11.Share the basics of the Christian faith with your friend, lay out how to become a Christian, and invite them to make a commitment.
When 15-30% of a congregation’s lay people are engaged in this kind of ‘lay ministry,’ this organic, relational, lay gospel ministry, it creates a powerful dynamism that infuses the whole church. Encouraging and supporting lay ministry of this nature is crucial for us as we launch the four Redeemers.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

World Evangelism -- Is It Possible? by George Verwer

Never in the history of the church have there been so many special programmes and campaigns, literally around the entire world. The highest goals and aims in the history of the church are being set by many different denominations and agencies. Many of these organizations are now linked through the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement. The overall goals is that everyone in the world receives the gospel and that the church be planted in every Peoples’ Group. The Missions Mobilization Network of the AD 2000 concerned with the mobilization of new missionaries has set as a goal the mobilization of 200,000 new missionaries in the next few years. In God’s providence, I am the Chairman of this Track. Part of me cries out, ‘Lord, how did I get into this?’
It does seem that across the world there is a great desire to work together more, as hard as that may seem in the pluralistic societies in which we live. It is encouraging to see major, mega denominations in many lands setting powerful goals and aims in the area of church growth and evangelism. Testimonies from Korea, Ghana are especially encouraging.
The main focus of the AD 2000 is the 10/40 Window where about 90% of the unreached peoples area is located. When some have complained to me regarding t he 1040 Window, I have told them to go and build their own window. Of course the whole world is our field.
I have sensed a renewal in my own life and vision through the AD2000 Movement. I have a negative and cynical streak that constantly needs attention. Waves of discouragement seem to daily come on me and I am trying to learn how to spiritually ‘surfboard’ on them. To me, the task, especially the Muslim World, seems like a triple Mt Everest. Some of the goals and aims of some groups seem not only unrealistic, but ridiculous, and in some cases not in line with what the Bible teaches. At the same time, I’m convinced that the positives in all this far outweigh the negatives and I want to lock hands and hearts with all who build upon the Word of God and love the Lord Jesus. One thing for sure is the fact that the goals and visions of this Movement and other movements will never become a reality without the massive mobilization and education of millions of believers and of the church.
Let us be honest and admit that at present only a tiny percentage of believers are really taking ownership of the Great Commission. In most places there is more talk than walk and some it leads to a cloud of deception and unreality. Many times people are willing to talk (and even pray) about missions, but when young people volunteer, they are unwilling or unable (so they say), to come up with the money to send them out - we are seeing that in certain new mission-sending countries right now. People often get defensive at this point and give wonderful stories of workers being sent out by the church, but in fact it’s the exception rather than the rule. A major grassroots missions movement is on the way… but it’s not here yet!!
Education is not the whole answer, but it is a vital part of the answer. Believers everywhere need to be taught the basics of evangelism and world missions. They need to know what the Bible says. They need to know something of what has been done and then they need to know what needs to be done and how vital their part is in it all.
Before we can blanket the world with the Gospel, we must blanket the church and God’s people with the biblical vision and reality of what this is all about. This must not be just the English-speaking world, but the whole world!
Those who already have this vision must unite and make every effort to bring a greater part of the body of Christ into action. There are prayer movements, but this must increase ten-fold and strengthened so that it will lead to real commitments, perseverance and obedience on the part of millions of believers.
We need to see the financial breakthrough for at least 100 million vision-building missionary books, leaflets, tapes and videos in at least 30 languages flood out across the world. Since pastors are so key, and often the bottleneck in world missions, we need to make sure that every Christian pastor in the world gets at least some of this material. This will not be done by one organization in some centrally controlled way. As much as possible, those involved should be linked together in some kind of network. For me, AD2000 is the ideal network, but whether people are linked into that or not they can be part of this great vision and mobilization. History is on our side as it has proven a thousand times over that powerful Christian literature and communication has been part of the backbone of the entire world-wide church growth and missionary movement.
When this communication is received and read I believe it will result in vision and obedience. That has been proven again and again. There are thousands of testimonies as to how God has used such communication to change individual lives and churches. Think of how God has used such books as Operation World. Think of how God has used the writings and communication of Ralph Winter, Billy Graham, OJ Smith, Elizabeth Elliot and a host of others. All we need to do is multiply all that has been done by 100 and make sure it gets into all the other major languages as well, not just English. It’s so simple in some ways that every believer can get involved. Write to your favorite mission group and get a good supply of their books, literature and tapes and start to read and distribute it. Can you imagine if simultaneously around the world God’s people would do this? Backed with love, action and prayer I believe it would be a major factor in enabling us to reach the goals and aims that are burning on so many hearts in these days. There are hundreds of publishing houses willing to help. There are hundreds of Bible schools and similar training centers who are ready to train the workers raised up by prayer and communication. Of course, much of the action will be in local fellowships across the world. There are thousands of agencies, missions and groups that would provide much of the structure and pastoral care that is needed for major missions thrusts. Not so many of these are in the 10/40 Window, but many are starting to aim in that direction and materials we distribute can be used of God to move the attention of people more in the direction of the unreached people groups.
Let us pray for the release of finance needed for this huge foundation laying, mobilization and educational effort. Finance seems to be the great obstacle as books and tapes cost money. The real obstacle is a lack of love, faith and biblical commitment. We can’t separate what I’m saying here from personal reformation, reality and revival. It is a mistake to think that the next big move is God’s. His big moves have already taken place – the Cross; the empty tomb; and Pentecost. Now it is our turn!! We need to repent and turn from all that is hindering us from doing God’s will in our day.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Evangelist: Like Father,like son.'IF'

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Rudyard Kipling