Monday, February 25, 2008

Preaching The Gospel and Methodologies

Back on November 17, 2007 I promised that I would cover a few more distinctions that may help us in doing ministry.  This is one of the remaining topics.

When asked what the best method/approach to evangelism is, my response is, "Preach the Gospel."  Often the questioner will look at me as if I'm a bit dense in the head, and thinking I've not understood she/he rephrases the question, "But what is the best method for preaching the Gospel?".   Then my reply is, "Preaching the Gospel IS a method - it is THE method - it is GOD'S method."

While you will have to throw out his Anglican sacramentalism, Roland Allen's book "Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours?" (originally written in 1912; 2nd ed. 1927; Eerdmans ed. 1962) will be a refreshing read to many who may have missed it.  How did Paul do missionary work?  He preached the Gospel !  How did Paul plant churches?  He preached the Gospel !  How did Paul carry out his "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18)?   He preached the Gospel !  Allen clearly makes the point that preaching the Gospel IS Paul's method.

How does God "save those who believe" ?   Answer :  "through the foolishness of the message preached"  (1 Cor. 1:21).    What is God's "power ... for salvation (including justification, sanctification, and glorification)  to everyone who believes" ?   Answer:  "the Gospel" which Paul was "not ashamed" to preach (Romans 1:15-16).   Paul, even under tremendous pressure,  had no alternate method, no "plan B"  -  only the "boldness in our God to speak to you the Gospel of God amid much opposition"  (1 Thess. 2:2,4).

Paul did seem to have some methodology/strategy for meeting people and deciding how he would spend his time.  He would go "to the Jew first" and if the Jews were not receptive he would preach to others until he saw who would be receptive and preached to them (Acts 13:45-52).  How did he decide who was receptive?  He preached the Gospel to them !   Paul would go to places where he thought people who had some spiritual interest might be gathered, and then he would preach the Gospel to them (Acts 16: 13-14).   There are methods for meeting people, for building relational bridges of love into their lives, but the preaching of the Gospel is not up for methodological variance.
 Yes, methods of doing things may and must keep changing.  They are temporal and finite.  I assure you I would not have been writing a "blog" twenty years ago.  We are always preaching the Gospel in the context of culture which is changing.  We want our message to connect with people's receptors.  But, the message does not - must not - change.  The Gospel we preach must be the same Gospel Paul preached or it will not save.

Jesus did not say "go into all the world and be the Gospel" - He said "preach the Gospel".   Paul did not go into Corinth to take surveys to find out what people wanted to hear, but rather with "weakness and in fear and in much trembling" he determined that he would know nothing among them "except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" so that their faith "would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Jesus and Paul did not avoid warning people about eternal punishment and hellfire (Matthew 25:46, Mark 9:43ff, 2 Thess. 1:6-10, and many more)  hiding behind some notion that such is not their "purpose" or "ministry".   Warning people to flee from coming wrath is a major purpose of Gospel communication (Matt. 3:7 cf. 1 Thess. 1:10, 5:9).

If you preach the truth that is eternal, you will always be relevant, because the eternal is always relevant.  If you adapt the Gospel to try to be relevant, you preach "another Gospel" (Galatians 1:6-7) and make yourself irrelevant in the process.  Far better a smaller group of faithful believers looking for heaven, than a larger group of make-believers who just want their "best life now", and don't even really get that  (2 Tim. 4:1-8). 

The Gospel IS God's method.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Back From Africa

Thanks so much to all who prayed for the recent ministry in C.A.R. It was truly a fruitful and significant time. 28 evangelists and potential pastors received training in Bambari, the home of Pastor Mboi Andre. These men are on the move to reach eastern C.A.R. with the Gospel (most churches and believers live in the western portion of the country, so there are still unreached and least-reached people in the east). Mboi Andre is currently on a trip to Zemio, an eastern town, where he is engaging in evangelism and church planting. Pray for his ministry, his travels on rugged roads (and sometimes no roads), and for his family while he's gone.

27 students also received training in leadership and communication at Bangui with Hibaile Augustan's CIDEL ministry. This was a great class with some very sharp students. They are from varied professions, so pray for their impact as salt and light in Bangui.

I also had a great time preaching in the churches, being present for the dedication of the Project Hope and Charity orphan center, meeting and encouraging some pastors I had not met before, and fellowshipping with our missionary staff in C.A.R as well as some others who were visiting from the States while I was there.

If you are following the current unrest in Kenya and Chad, you know the importance of praying for the stability of the Central African Republic. Situated as it is geographically, if it is stable it has the potential to halt the spread of unrest throughout the rest of the continent. If unstable, the unrest could spread through C.A.R. like a wildfire. Great days, maybe the greatest ever, could be ahead for our ministries in C.A.R., but this could be sidetracked by any time of turmoil. Let's pray First Timothy 2:1-4 for Africa in these days.