Reforming church, culture and our city

Reforming church, culture and our city

Posts Tagged ‘discipleship

What Will It Mean For Us To Grow The Gospel In Our City?

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Just this week our cell group leaders and I spent some time looking at a strategy for ministry in the New Testament raising the question, “what will it mean for us to grow the gospel of Jesus in our city?” Presently there are 4,100,000 in our city, out of which 3,850,000 are unreached. We live in a city where 96% of people are unreached. To put that in perspective, only 3 in every 100 people in our city are Bible believing Christians. On any given Sunday, less than 15,000 Chinese are at church. Currently there are just over 292,000 Chinese in our city, out of which 277,000 are unreached. We live in a city where 95% of Chinese are unreached. To put that in perspective, only 5 in every 100 Chinese people in our city are Bible believing Christians. The reality that we need to realize as a church is that we live in a secular city that desperately needs more mission minded Christians and churches planted.

In fact, when you turn to the New Testatment you discover that part of the strategy for reaching people in the cities was church multiplication. As you read Acts 14:21-28, you discover that church planting was part of the dna of the early church. It was part of the normal practice and life of the church. Wherever Paul went, he evangelised, he discipled and he started churches. Often, he was sent by other churches to do just that (Acts 13:1-3) The tendency for churches today is to focus on preaching, teaching, evangelism, discipleship, prayer, and to see church planting as the optional extra that we pursue when we run out of space. Tim Keller in his article on church multiplication points out that you see in Paul a strategy of Christian formation and Church formation wherever he went.

You discover as you look at Paul’s ministry in this passage that wherever he went he engaged in evangelism, where he ‘preached’ the gospel to that city (v.21). He doesn’t use the word ‘kerusso’ – preach, but the world ‘evangelizdomenoi’ i.e he ‘gospeled’ the city. Paul ‘gospelled’ the gospel to that city, which was more than just preaching sermons. He goes out and takes the gospel to people. The movement is always to take the gospel out to people where they are at. When you look at Acts you often see Paul gospelling in many different settings: in synagogues (Acts 17:1-2), in small groups (Acts 20:7ff; 16:32), in the market-places (Acts 17:17), in rented halls (Acts 19:9), or even just talking to people one on one (Acts 20:20-21). He saw himself as a missionary and wherever he went that was his mission field. You also discover that wherever he went he also instructed, where he ‘strengthened and encouraged’ new believers in the faith (v.21b-22). He taught them and grounded them in the Christian faith i.e. he spent time discipling them. It’s interesting to note that what Paul does here is consistent with Jesus’ great commission in Matthew 28:18-20.

Having done this you see that whenever believers are gospeled and instructed in these cities, you also find that they are gathered together (Acts 14:27; 15:30) to be the church. You effectively see the formation of new churches wherever evangelism and instruction takes place. You also see leaders picked and set apart to lead those churches (v.23). Paul we are told appoints elders to lead who take on the role of teaching and shepherding that particular group of gathered people. He didn’t start a denomination, but instead empowered them for ministry and mission, and committed them to Jesus. They had their own leadership, and were responsible for their own ministry. When Paul started with them they were “disciples” (v.22), but when he left them, they were “churches” (v.23).

This was the consistent pattern of ministry that you discover in the New Testament. We go out to gospel the unreached in our city wherever God sends us and wherever they are: in the café, in the shopping malls, in our workplaces, in our universities, at the hairdresser, at home. You and I are missionaries in this city. And when people come to know Jesus, we are to spend time discipling them, grounding them in the Christian faith teaching them to follow and trust the words and work of Jesus. And where we see people saved across our city, we are to gather them to be the church, whether in new small groups where they live, whether in new Sunday worship services we plant, or whether in existing churches around them.

No One Lives An Uncommitted Life

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“No one lives an uncommitted life.” Even the person who is lazy is a committed person i.e. committed to laziness. We’re brought up in a culture of commitment (from parents who are seeking to instill a commitment to the family, studies or values – to a culture that tells us to be committed to a our personal development and careers). No one lives an uncommitted life – because everyone is committed to something, someone or some way in life. Commitment is not a bad thing and is to be valued, but as followers of Jesus, it must be asked, ‘what are you committed to in life?’ What controls your commitments in life? Look at your ambitions and priorities, your family, your use of time and money, and your relationships – are they shaped by a commitment to follow Jesus?

Paul in 2 Cor.5:10-6:2 was a man shaped by two events that shaped his commitment to Jesus and his mission. Firstly, Paul understood that as a follower of Jesus he was accountable for the way he lived his life. He makes clear that there is a judgment where we must ALL appear before Jesus to give an account. His desire to please Jesus and to see people come to know Jesus was grounded in the knowledge that it will be Jesus who will one day judge all people (Paul included). Paul had a healthy fear of judgment in his life – a judgment that held him accountable, and a judgment that he knew people around him would also one day face. And so he makes it his commitment to persuade others to join him in fearing Jesus, in living a life that pleases Jesus and in being reconciled to Jesus.

Secondly
, Paul understood that as a follower of Jesus he was personally loved by Jesus, who died so that he might live. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” – 2 Cor.5:14. We often forget that Paul was not always a Christian. He was an angry, violent, legalistic, self-sufficient man (1 Tim.2:12-16; Gal.1:13, 23; Acts 22:8; 26:19). And like those around him, Paul was under God’s judgment, destined for hell. Then Jesus saved him and transformed him. It’s Paul’s experience of the love and saving power of Jesus that transforms and directs his commitments in life. From one under judgment and hell, to one saved by Jesus, who is now a man accountable to Jesus and his mission because others are still under judgment, who is now ‘compelled’ or ‘constrained’ by Jesus’ love for him in life.

If there was a profound truth that summed up Paul’s personal relationship and commitment to Jesus – it would be ‘Jesus loves me’. If you were to interview Paul and asked him what is the most profound truth you’ve discovered in your Christian life? He would say – Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but he is strong / Jesus loves me, he who died. Heaven’s gate to open wide. He will wash away my sin. Let his little child come in. / Jesus loves me, he will stay. Close beside me all the way. If I love him when I die. He will take me home on high (Anna B. Warner, 1860). His life was constrained, shaped, directed, marked, overwhelmed, won over by Jesus’ love for him. Is yours?

No one lives an uncommitted life – what or who are you deeply committed to?

Written by eugenehor

March 7, 2008 at 2:29 pm