Category Archives: Evangelism

Reprise: “Give Us Youngsville, or We Die!”

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

This was originally posted on April 28, 2011, one month into Sovereign Redeemer’s existence. It is truer now than then. Read on!

The great Scottish reformer, John Knox, was overheard by friends laboring in prayer for his country, repeatedly calling out to God, “Give me Scotland, or I die!”

Sovereign Redeemer Community Church is a month old now, and I am praying that God will give us the spirit of this man, the earnestness and urgency of his prayers for the people around him, and his boldness in proclaiming the gospel. Maybe Youngsville is no Scotland, and maybe none of us are a John Knox, but the heart of our King is the same. We may not be “God’s gift to Youngsville,” but Jesus Christ is, and we are some of His happy subjects. Our being here is no accident, and we are under orders.

Ephesians 2:8-10 says this: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Here we are, the workmanship of God, having nothing to boast in except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, with good works to do which have been prepared for us by God Himself. As we walk in them, our neighbors will see and hear, and they “may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

So whether we feel ready for this calling or not, it is upon us. And maybe the questioning of our readiness can work in our favor by making us hungrier and more fervent in our prayers, so that we find ourselves relying more fully on God who is able.

Church planting is about God taking ground. There is nothing remotely sinister about this, since wherever and whenever the government of God spreads, happiness and every good thing abounds. Jesus is the best King there is, and to be His subject is to know a peace that passes understanding. Youngsville needs this just as much as a thousand other towns.

May it be that God Himself has assembled us for this purpose, and that He will teach us – drive us – to labor in prayer, “Give us Youngsville, or we die!”

Stay Tuned for Malawi Updates

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

I hope to post frequent updates from Malawi in the coming days. We depart on Thursday, August 28, and arrive home, if the Lord wills, on Friday, September 12. I plan to add updates here at the top of the post, pushing the older updates further down.

– This is our second trip to Malawi. The first was two years ago, in August 2012. As a review, this was the preview for that trip, and this was the follow-up.

Friday, September 12

After a brief stop in Dakar, Senegal and a plane change in Washington D.C., we arrived in Raleigh at 9:30 a.m. – right on time and WITH ALL OUR LUGGAGE, which is no small thing! It was a great trip, and it’s great to be home!

Thursday, September 11

We toured Soweto (the shortened version of “South West Township”), the township of Johannesburg where the movement to topple Apartheid developed and finally triumphed. In the late afternoon, we boarded our flight and began the eighteen hour journey home.

Wednesday, September 10

We said goodbye to our dear friends and flew out of Blantyre, arriving in Johannesburg mid afternoon. We stayed with Tim Cantrell, pastor of Antioch Bible Church, and Scott and I had the privilege of preaching at the church in the evening.

Tuesday, September 9

Our last full day in Blantyre was largely spent with twenty young men from Antioch Baptist Church. We met in Mala’so living room and Mike, Victor, Scott and I all gave messages about different aspects of studying Scripture. These are hungry young men and it has been a real joy to be with them and to teach them.

In the afternoon Marvin Jere drove us to Mount Mulanje, the third highest mountain in Africa. On the way, we passed through miles and miles of tea fields (yes, drinking tea). Come to think of it, they also grow a lot of sugar cane… Hmmm – they have all the key ingredients to becoming Southern, but I digress… Anyway, tea comes from short shrubs that would be about halfway to your knee if you were standing in the field. It is a beautiful green and makes for a breathtaking landscape.

The day ended with “The Last Supper”: dinner at Mala’s house with a few of our closest friends from Blantyre.

Monday, September 8

Today was the pastors’ conference at EBCOM (the Evangelical Bible College of Malawi). Nineteen pastors attended. After the first two sessions, Scott went “off script” and taught an extemporaneous session on Deuteronomy 6, applying it both to pastors and their families, and also to the pastor’s duty to teach these things to the fathers of their church and require their obedience.

At lunch, we decided to abandon the original schedule in favor of teaching on and applying the sufficiency of Scripture. I taught first, establishing the doctrine from 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and Mark 7:1-13, and then applying it to three controversial areas of Malawian culture: the education of children, marriages where the husband lives and works in one location with the wife in another, and women pastors (there were four in the room). Scott followed up with a message clarifying the gospel and pressing the pastor’s duty to identify, help, and confront those who are likely unbelievers in the congregation.

Needless to say, our discussions afterwards were quite lively, though thankfully not openly contentious.

Sunday, September 7

Scott and I taught on different aspects of the fear of the LORD at Antioch Baptist Church, while Mike and Victor both went to preach at other local churches.

A Women’ Conference was held in the afternoon, with Deborah Brown teaching the two sessions. This was attended by the women of Antioch and also students from several of the local universities.

In the evening, Mala took us to Catholic University, where the men went to a classroom to meet with the young men, while Deborah and Mada (Masada and Mada married in April) met with the young women. We both led discussions on the sufficiency of Scripture. The men’s discussion was great, but I suspect not quite as lively as the ladies’ discussion. Deborah has already received an email from one of the young ladies saying that the group has been continuing to discuss these things and to search the Scriptures, and they are beginning to realize these things are true, even though the implications are daunting. We should be praying that the Lord would help these women not to be afraid to obey anything that they find in Scripture.

Saturday, September 6

The Gospel Conference was well attended with about seventy five attendees, mostly from the local universities, listening very attentively to a lot of teaching – six sessions in all. We labored to press home the true biblical gospel, insisting that being born again always results in changed thinking and a changed life. We also attacked the false gospels of easy beleivism and the prosperity gospel, both of which are pervasive here in Malawi.

Tuesday, September 2 – Wednesday,  September 5

I felt like the balance of the “Your Marriage Matters” was very valuable with strong messages from each of the speakers (Scott Brown, Mike Davenport, Victor Maxson and myself). There was a very wide range of ages in attendance, from the many college singles to some older men from a local Presbyterian Church who knew us from two years ago. Marvin Jere’s parents also joined us for a couple of the sessions.

On Friday, between the afternoon and evening sessions, we spread out two-by-two on the campus of Blantyre University for evangelism. Like two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised at the students’ overall willingness to engage in meaningful discussions.

Monday, September 1

We traveled safely from Lilongwe to Blantyre, where we will remain for the rest of our stay. The trip was just as I remembered it – harrowing, since people (and livestock) walk and ride bikes (not the livestock) right next to speeding traffic. Oh, and passing in the face of oncoming traffic is part of the deal. I’m not sure why…

Anyway, I’m comfortably settled at the home of Mala and Rachel.

The 5-day marriage conference began at noon, with a single session over the lunch hour and then two sessions in the evening. The venue is in downtown Blantyre, so that many of those working there can attend over lunch and then immediately after work. That will continue to be the schedule through Friday.

Sunday, August 31

We had a wonderful start to the Lord’s Day at Reformation Fellowship, which is the church the Maxsons are planting in Lilongwe. I taught on “What Is a Biblical Christian?”, primarily from John 3, and then Scott preached on “What Is a Biblical Church?” Along with our team and the Maxsons, there were about ten Malawians from the community. It is a small church plant with a sweet spirit of fellowship in Christ.

Saturday, August 30

This afternoon Scott and I spoke at the “Your Marriage Matters” seminar sponsored by Frank Maxson and the church here. There were something like 25-30 people who attended from around the community, and it was a very attentive and engaged group. It is a great blessing to be able to preach the gospel and its connection to marriage and family life.

Thursday/Friday, August 28/29

We departed Raleigh at 6:00 a.m., flew to New York, and then 8,000 miles and 15 hours later we arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa. We made the flight to Lilongwe, Malawi with five minutes to spare (literally), and arrived right on time – with all our luggage. ‘Twas a miracle! Most of the flight to Africa was at an altitude of about 40,000 feet, with a average outside temperature of -50F (yes, that is not a typo – it is really, really cold up there!). I had plenty of time to pray for everyone in the church by name. If you attend Sovereign Redeemer, you were the recipient of high-altitude prayer.

 

 

Loving Jesus Christ

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Here is another gem from J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, Chapter 15, “Do You Love Me?” (based on John 21:16).

“…if you love Christ, never be ashamed to let others see it and know it. Speak for Him. Witness for Him. Live for Him. Work for Him. If He has loved you and washed you from your sins in His own blood – you never need shrink from letting others know that you feel it, and love Him in return.

‘Man,’ said a thoughtless, ungodly English traveler, to a North American Indian convert, ‘Man, what is the reason that you make so much of Christ, and talk so much about Him? What has this Christ done for you, that you should make so much ado about him?’

The converted Indian did not answer him in words. He gathered together some dry leaves and moss and made a ring with them on the ground. He picked up a live worm and put it in the middle of the ring. He struck a light and set the moss and leaves on fire. The flame soon rose, and the heat scorched the worm. It writhed in agony, and after trying in vain to escape on every side, curled itself up in the middle, as if about to die in despair. At that moment the Indian reached forth his hand, took up the worm gently and placed it on his bosom.

‘Sir,’ he said to the Englishman, ‘do you see that worm? I was that perishing creature. I was dying in my sins, hopeless, helpless and on the brink of eternal fire. It was Jesus Christ who put forth the arm of His power. It was Jesus Christ who delivered me with the hand of His grace, and plucked me from everlasting burnings. It was Jesus Christ who placed me, a poor sinful worm, near the heart of His love. Stranger, that is the reason why I talk of Jesus Christ, and make much of Him. I am not ashamed of it, because I love Him.’

If we know anything of love to Christ, may we have the mind of this North American Indian! May we never think that we can…

love Christ to well,

live to Him to thoroughly,

confess Him too boldly,

lay ourselves out for Him too heartily!

Of all the things that will surprise us in the resurrection morning, this I believe will surprise us most: that we did not love Christ more before we died!”

Saturday Chores: Making Hope a Laughing Matter

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Most Saturdays for the past few months, a young couple has joined us for a few minutes outside the Jones Franklin Road abortion clinic for a goofy sort of counter-protest, making use of social media and calling it Saturday Chores.

Their shtick has been for one to hold a sign that they find random or humorous or both, the other to take a picture, and then to use that picture to add to a series of pro-choice posts. Their humorous approach has been universally praised by the media outlets that have picked this up over the last week or two.

Here is the problem: the death of babies isn’t funny. When mothers are in crisis, it isn’t funny.

So there is nothing praiseworthy about their approach, because babies are dying every day on the other side of that clinic door. And the mothers who are coming, having been told and wanting to believe that they are solving their problem, are only increasing their troubles exponentially. A baby isn’t a problem, and abortion isn’t a solution. These women need the hope of the good news of Jesus Christ, along with caring practical help, which is exactly what we are there to offer, and that is no laughing matter.

That is why I am so glad that Taylor Tsantles is leading the effort to carefully articulate what we are doing at the clinic and why at hopebeforethedoor.com. You will find visiting well worth your time.

One last thought. One of the random counter-protest signs was “I Like Turtles“. Ironically, our culture loves turtles at the same time that we hate babies. Consider this sign posted above a sea turtle nest that my daughter encountered this past weekend on the beach:

Protecting Sea Turtle Eggs

 

That’s right: mess with a turtle egg and you just might be facing a $100,000 fine and a year in prison. But kill your baby and exit the clinic to a round of applause.

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Profile of the Evangelistic Church

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

This was my topic for the NCFICWhite Unto Harvest” conference (October 2012), and it was a great honor and pleasure to speak about some of the things God has been doing in our midst. Happy reading!

In the category of evangelism, most local churches acknowledge the need for God to make us what we have not been. We look at our history, and it is painfully obvious that we need for God to give us progress. A lot of progress.

For churches like that, 1 Thessalonians 1:5-8 is an encouraging text. Paul writes, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” This precious local church received the pure gospel, they were firmly established in that gospel, and then it sounded forth in every place. The evangelistic church is not a mirage! Paul founded one and watched it come to maturity and fruitfulness.

May God give our local churches this testimony, as godly people in years to come see what God has accomplished among us. May they see that we have received a pure gospel, that we have been firmly established in it, and that this gospel has sounded forth in every place.

I was assigned the task of profiling the evangelistic church. Why? Is it that I lead a church which has arrived in this category, so that I can simply exhort other local churches to be like us? Certainly not! If you speak with the members of our congregation, the consistent self-analysis will be that when we were planted a year and a half ago, we were pitiful, and now we are mediocre. So we are not boasting in our mediocrity, but we can point with gratitude to progress that the Lord has given us, and it gives us hope to aspire to so much more, based on the pattern of God’s faithfulness that we have already seen.

There are a few important topics that this article simply presupposes, and doesn’t address. First, it is the pure gospel in view. That is certainly not a given, in this day when so many false gospels are welcome in the evangelical world. Second, a local church which is a mighty voice for the gospel is dominated by people who are actually born again. This too is no safe bet for the modern local church. Finally, evangelism is simply the starting point of the Great Commission, a subset that is only a sliver of what it means to disciple the nations.

Where to Start: Repentance

As I begin to paint the picture of the evangelistic church, there is an absolutely essential starting point, and if we miss this then we miss all. It stems from what Jesus says in Matthew 22:36-40, when asked this question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

How should this be applied to the Great Commission, and evangelism in particular? In this way: Evangelism is a natural, inevitable outflow, not a separate category. If our churches are genuinely evangelistic, it will be because the love of God and neighbor pulses in warm hearts. Can it be said that we love God with heart, soul and mind, and yet His praise is never on our lips when we are engaged in conversations with the lost? Inconceivable! Can it be said that we love our neighbor when we are so governed by the fear of man that our “comfort zone” is more precious to us than an eternal soul? Unbelievable!

If we intend to become evangelistic, we have to understand why we have not been evangelistic. It will not do to simply say, “We need to make progress,” or “Evangelism is a shortcoming.” The truth of the matter is that our history is displaying the great sin of lovelessness, and we must repent. Our greatest need isn’t a great strategy or a training program, it is repentance. If we start anywhere else, we end up with a lot of short-term activity with no long-term change. To take our place in the Great Commission, we desperately need the long-term change.

Face the facts, brothers and sisters. Our love for God isn’t what we thought it was. Our love for our neighbor isn’t what we thought it was. The outside of the cup looks fine, but the inside needs attention. We should be broken by the implications of our coldness towards evangelism and repent. Then and only then are we ready for progress.

One thing I have learned in life is that, in any category, there are a very few levers that determine success or failure. True in business, true at home, true in relationships, true in evangelism. Pull those few levers with all your might, and you’ll be successful. Ignore them but pull the hundred smaller levers instead, and you’ll fail. Obviously, given that Jesus said all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two great laws of love, love is one of those very few levers that must be pulled with all our might.

Step Two: Fear God

Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Evangelistic churches have corporately gotten a grasp of this! If you look across the broad landscape of those churches, you find that God looms large and man is a small thing. Why don’t we share our faith? We’re petrified, and most of the time we don’t even really know why. Speaking to people about their soul is just scary, that’s all.

But when we fear God as we ought, we don’t fear man, because the fear of God is a controlling fear, a master fear that subjugates all of those other fears of circumstance and people that would otherwise rule us. And here is what we find: You don’t die. In fact, rather than being killed by proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, we are exhilarated and wonder what we were afraid of anyway!

Are you willing to live in slavery to the fear of man for another decade? Another year, month, week, minute, second? By the grace of God, not me! May God cause us to fear Him in a way that makes our comfort zone nothing in our own eyes.

Why haven’t our churches been evangelistic? Because we haven’t loved God or neighbor as we ought, and we haven’t feared God as we ought. It seems to me that these are the two big levers that will determine our success or failure. Are you surprised? Did you think I was going to spend the space on technique? Undoubtedly there are many tools that can help us be effective in how we share the gospel, but our big problem is that we share the gospel (or that we don’t, to be precise).

If our two primary levers are love of God and neighbor and the fear of the Lord, how do we stoke those fires? Attention to the ordinary means of grace: prayer and the word. Go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place. Open His word and become like a tree planted by rivers of waters, yielding its fruit in season. Nothing cultivates love for God and fear of God than being in His presence and considering His character and His ways. Love for neighbor, and specifically evangelism, will flow from that.

Next: Depend on God

Let’s agree: When you launch the Apostle Paul on his first missionary journey, you get to be called an evangelistic church. Now consider the account, recorded in Acts 13:1-3: “Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”

They are waiting but ready. They are ministering to the Lord, fasting, and praying with all diligence, ready to act on whatever God would have them do. They listened. God spoke. They did. And the world was turned upside down. This is an instance where a mighty work of evangelism wasn’t initiated by “evangelistic activity,” at least not as we might define that term. It was initiated by waiting on the Lord through prayer and fasting. They were ready, but they were not thrashing around, executing whatever idea willy-nilly. Can it be said that we do more thrashing than praying? I think most of us would have to plead guilty. Evangelistic churches trust God, not themselves. They fast. They pray.

Of course, this is simply a subset of loving and fearing God, but it is worth a specific mention. May God fashion us into local churches who patiently labor in prayer, ready at any moment to obey. Does that mean that we do nothing until we sense the leading of the Lord? By no means! But it does mean that we allocate lavish amounts of time, individually and corporately, to seek the Lord and be before Him in humility. In our desire to be more faithful in proclaiming the gospel, we dare not simply launch a program and declare victory. There is so much more to Great Commission fruitfulness than generating activity. Wait on the Lord. Fast. Pray. Then go with the good news of Jesus Christ on your lips.

Something You Can’t Supply: Gifted Evangelists

In Ephesians 4:7-8,11-12, Paul describes something that we can’t do. We don’t even play a part. He says this: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.’… And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”.

A key element of local churches being equipped for evangelism is the placement by God of gifted evangelists. He Himself gives evangelists to churches in order to equip the saints to go and do likewise. So the text clearly isn’t saying that evangelism is the exclusive domain of a few gifted souls. The Great Commission is a commandment to every follower of Christ until He comes again. But God has supernaturally given some of His people the ability to do with relative ease and effectiveness what is relatively difficult and ineffective for the rest of us. We watch them in action and we are helped. They push us out of our comfort zone, stirring us up to love and good deeds. We should praise God that He has given these gifted evangelists to His church, helping us to be more obedient and more faithful. The body of Christ is indeed edified by their presence.

My experience over a couple of decades is that this coin has two sides. On one side is a gift given to the church for the equipping of the saints, an invaluable blessing. Sometimes the flip side is a youthful zeal that hasn’t been seasoned by much wisdom in the faith yet. Maybe this gifted evangelist has this formula embedded firmly in the brain: evangelism = street preaching, and if you aren’t doing it, you are the worst kind of compromiser. He has lost sight of the fact that he is operating in an area of supernatural gifting, and he hasn’t yet learned to appreciate progressive sanctification. He might be more impatient with his brethren than he ought to be.

What should the more mature do then? Be mature! Put your arm around that young zealot and give him the lenses through which to see his brothers and sisters in Christ, and the mercy and patience of Christ that he also enjoys. Believe me, to whatever extent he needs your wisdom, you need his zeal tenfold. Don’t despise the misdirected zeal, but gently redirect it.

Our Church: A Case Study

We needed progress, and we had been praying for progress, and it was the arrival of some gifted evangelists that God used to really move us forward. I praise God for sending them. I trust we will never be the same.

Here are some reflections on our experiences over the past year and a half:

–  It all started with “a bad idea.” One of our gifted evangelists wanted to buy a gas grill and a trailer, and set up in a parking lot on main street to serve hot dogs to the community on Monday nights. Being a know-it-all (as opposed to all-knowing), I knew that wouldn’t work. On the other hand, it was something, and we were doing nothing in the category of public outreach. As it turned out, week after week it totally exceeded all of my expectations. Anywhere from fifteen to thirty people from the community, people we would never have had contact with, would come, sit in a chair, and eat hot dogs with families from the church. The gospel was (and still is) regularly and boldly proclaimed.

My wife and I have an inside joke. I’ll be sitting with my feet up. She’ll be working away, busy as a beaver. She’ll ask if I would do this or that, always something minor that would help with her big list. Without exception, I will roll my eyes and say, “Do I have to do EVERYTHING?” Without exception, she will reply, “No, just SOMETHING…” Then we have a good laugh. It is that way with local churches and evangelism. It is an endless work, but we don’t have to do everything, just something. Sometimes it helps to just get moving. And yes, I perceive how this could be seen as a contradiction to the admonition to wait on the Lord, fast and pray. Trust me, it isn’t.

–  We have found evangelism to be self-feeding. Here is what I mean. A person feels paralyzed by the prospect of sharing the gospel, but from love of God and neighbor, and out of a healthy fear of the Lord, they do it. Now, is that person much more inclined to do it again, or much less inclined? Much more inclined by a factor of a hundred! It is exhilarating to hear the gospel on your own lips, and the accounts of all the ways God has been good and faithful to you. It reminds you of what it was like to be without Christ, and gives you a love for souls in that condition. Once you get started, you feel the momentum instantly. It makes you wonder what all the fuss was about, why all the worry, and it puts you on the lookout for the next opportunity. Are you tired of that nagging feeling that you have an area of major disobedience in your life? Then get rid of it!

–  Once you start, opportunities abound. Are you near a nursing home? That’s where the widows are! Go be a blessing to them. The nursing home that we approached was happy to have us come and conduct a brief weekly service. The gospel is preached, hymns are sung, the elderly are loved and honored. One of our families, headed by a gifted evangelist, wanted to serve a meal and preach the gospel in the common area of local government-subsidized housing. Several families rallied around that, and it continues today. What is the limit to the places with people who need the gospel? You don’t even need to leave your home. Bring your neighbors and co-workers to your dinner table, clear away the dishes and have family worship after the meal, show them a functioning Christian family that gathers daily to worship God together. You will be surprised at how many people have never once seen that.

–  This is not at odds with family discipleship. It is not “either/or,” it is “both/and.” In fact, it is a critical element of family discipleship. Don’t leave your family to go do evangelism (though that may be appropriate or even necessary from time to time). Find ways to engage in evangelism together. That does two things. First, it communicates to our children that we are deadly serious about obeying the Lord’s commandment to disciple the nations. The value of that cannot be underestimated, and the lack of it is a catastrophic gap in bringing up children in the training and admonition of the Lord. Second, it readies the next generation to engage in the Great Commission. If our children have been at our elbows a hundred times as we have proclaimed the gospel, they will be ready themselves. For a while, they will just be observers, but the day will come when they will be able to enter the fray as well.

–  Training is a lousy substitute for doing. Yes, there is a place for resources and studying and training, but some of the best training happens by doing. We can never let the lack of training be our reason for neglecting to share the gospel. Every Christian who has felt the crushing weight of the holiness of God and their own desperate need to be pardoned has the wherewithal for evangelism. Pray, then get to it.

Conclusion

So what is the profile of the evangelistic church? As in all things, the Bible defines it.

–  The evangelistic church is filled with people who have received a true gospel, have been firmly established in that gospel, and then sound it forth (1 Thessalonians 1:5-8).
–  The evangelistic church is growing in the great commandments of love (Matthew 22:36-40).
–  The evangelistic church is growing in the fear of God (Matthew 10:28).
–  The evangelistic church is seeking the Lord through prayer, fasting, waiting (Acts 13:1-3).
–  The evangelistic church has received gifted evangelists from God (Ephesians 4:7-12).

In Romans 1:16, Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” May our churches cherish the good news of Jesus Christ as the great treasure that it is, and may God make us bolder and bolder in the proclamation of it. I know this will be to the glory of God, and that it will result in the joy of His people.

 

Jason Dohm
Sovereign Redeemer Community Church
Youngsville, NC

Making Our Children Ready for Kingdom Battles

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Last year Jeff Pollard of Mount Zion Bible Church invited me to address their annual family conference on the topic of making children ready for kingdom battles. Jeff is a dear friend and one of my favorite preachers, so I was delighted to be asked, especially since this gets right at the core of what we are praying would be accomplished in our local church life.

This message is about 50 minutes long, and it represents the “why we do what we do” with respect to Sovereign Redeemer’s weekly schedule, particularly the outreaches.

Listen to it here.

The Great Commission and Repentance

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

I am getting more and more excited about the upcoming “White Unto Harvest” conference, and I suspect I’m far from alone. In preparing for the address I will be giving – “Profile of the Evangelistic Church” – I have been assessing my own history in the category of the Great Commission. Here is my conclusion, and where I believe we must start: Repentance is required.

It will not do to simply resolve to make progress, or even to admit that evangelism has been a significant shortcoming. We do need to make progress, of course, and for most of us evangelism has in fact been a major shortcoming, but leaving it at that is woefully insufficient. Why? Because there is grievous sin that needs to be acknowledged and forsaken. One fact is clearer to me now than it ever has been, which is that the Great Commission is the natural and inevitable outflow of the Great Commandments.

The Great Commandments

When asked which is the great commandment in the law, Jesus responded this way: “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). The two greatest commandments are commandments of love, and they perfectly summarize all the Law and the Prophets. And they stand in priority. First love God. How? With an all-consuming love – heart, soul, mind and strength. Then love your neighbor. How? As yourself, meaning “a lot.” Two great commandments, supreme and inseparable.

How Does This Relate To The Great Commission?

Okay, so I’ve only said what every Christian already knows, which is that loving God and loving neighbor is the supreme summary of what God requires of us. So what? Here’s what: the Great Commission is simply an extension of this, not a separate category. If I love God with all of my being, His praise is on my lips incessantly. If I love my neighbor as myself, I care deeply about his eternal condition and open my mouth with the mighty remedy of the gospel. Loving God without speaking of His greatness, His ways, what He has done through Christ? Inconceivable! Loving neighbor without speaking to his desperate need? Unbelievable!

Our gospel failures represent more than needing progress. They are indicators that our love for God isn’t what we thought it was, and neither is our love for our neighbor. To persist in the faith without the gospel on our lips is to reveal a profound inconsistency that will have to be dealt with. It can’t simply be swept under the rug as we drum up a new wave of evangelism.

Why It Matters

If we skip repentance and go straight to activity, our new found evangelistic zeal will be short-lived. We’ve all been in the church with the strategy-of-the-year, and we need for the Great Commission to be infinitely more than that. It starts with repentance. My silence reveals that I have not loved my God as I ought. My apathy and fear of man reveals that I have not loved my neighbor much at all, let alone as myself. Friends, this is sin. Long held sin. Revealing and humiliating sin. If we are going to be different five years from now, ten years from now, we must own our sin and then forsake it. Mourn, and then by the grace of God, by the Spirit of God, change.

Brothers and sisters, this is our finest hour, if we will follow the author and perfecter of our faith. There is nothing more exhilarating than to demonstrate a true love for God and for our neighbor by engaging the lost with the gospel for the glory of God. May God give us the grace to love more, spending and being spent for this Great Commission.

The Great Commission

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

In just a few short hours, I will board a plane with Scott Brown and two young men from our congregations and start the two-day journey to Malawi Africa, where we will engage in ten packed days of evangelism and discipleship. Accordingly, here are five thoughts about going to the nations:

  1. Going is a privilege. Imagine the privilege of being an ambassador for a great king. Actually, we don’t have to imagine it. We are it. 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” Knowing Jesus Christ, and the joy that He brings wherever His atoning mercy and government spreads, makes the Great Commission not a task but the Great Privilege. I can’t wait to get there and share the good news with the lost.
  2. We are going in order to give. Looking back on the last decade, I am so grateful that God has firmly established biblical teaching for the reformation of the family among us. He has given us something so practical and helpful to impart to brothers and sisters in another nation, and we know from our own experience that it will be a blessing to marriages and families as we preach in churches and conferences in Malawi. May God use this time mightily to revive and strengthen Christian families there.
  3. We are going in order to receive. Having been on similar trips before, I know we are likely to be the great recipients. God has been firmly establishing particular and precious truths among our brethren in Malawi, and we will be carefully watching and listening, hoping to identify and acquire them. I already know that these are joyful men, humble men, praying men, and I need that to rub off on me. We will be on the lookout for other areas where they excel us so that we can grow and progress in our faith.
  4. Brotherhood is an amazing joy. This past November, five of these brothers from Malawi were with us in North Carolina for nearly a month. We know them. We love them. My family was one of the host families, and the man who stayed with us lost his guest status early in his stay, becoming family in a profound sense. Getting off the plane in Malawi and embracing these men will be a special moment. I have missed them.
  5. Why wait? The Great Commission – making disciples, baptizing, teaching them to obey all things that Jesus Christ has commanded us – is the great occupation of the church. Not one of us can wait for a mission trip to another continent. It is a sin to wait. How foolish to wait for a grand event far away when our neighbors, our co-workers, our children, are perishing in their sins, without Christ, without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). The Great Commission must not be a separate category, waiting for the next special event – it must be a part of every Christian’s DNA, having a significant impact on how we spend each day.
We covet your prayers for the power of the Holy Spirit in all our doings there and for exponential fruitfulness for the kingdom of heaven, and we hope to share many stories of God’s faithfulness when we return.

 

“Give Us Youngsville, or We Die!”

Greetings Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

The great Scottish reformer, John Knox, was overheard by friends laboring in prayer for his country, repeatedly calling out to God, “Give me Scotland, or I die!”

Sovereign Redeemer Community Church is a month old now, and I am praying that God will give us the spirit of this man, the earnestness and urgency of his prayers for the people around him, and his boldness in proclaiming the gospel.  Maybe Youngsville is no Scotland, and maybe none of us are a John Knox, but the heart of our King is the same.  We may not be “God’s gift to Youngsville,” but Jesus Christ is, and we are some of His happy subjects.  Our being here is no accident, and we are under orders.

Ephesians 2:8-10 says this:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Here we are, the workmanship of God, having nothing to boast in except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, with good works to do which have been prepared for us by God Himself.  As we walk in them, our neighbors will see and hear, and they “may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

So whether we feel ready for this calling or not, it is upon us.  And maybe the questioning of our readiness can work in our favor by making us hungrier and more fervent in our prayers, so that we find ourselves relying more fully on God who is able.

Church planting is about God taking ground.  There is nothing remotely sinister about this, since wherever and whenever the government of God spreads, happiness and every good thing abounds.  Jesus is the best King there is, and to be His subject is to know a peace that passes understanding.  Youngsville needs this just as much as a thousand other towns.

May it be that God Himself has assembled us for this purpose, and that He will teach us – drive us – to labor in prayer, “Give us Youngsville, or we die!”