We are so excited to announce our new staff member. Breanna Mendenhall is joining Vision4Living Ministries as a Administrative assistant. This is a huge answer to prayer as our admin duties have increased. This will free up more time for dad and myself to focus more on writing and development. Breanna is a very capable individual who will serve the ministry with a heart and passion for seeing the gospel continue from generation to generation. She has a clear vision for how her role will further kingdom work through V4L for the glory of God. Her years of experience will serve well as she joins the team. Welcome to the team Breanna! What a joy to have one who’s passion is Christ and life is the gospel.
For His Glory,
‘Behold Your God’
What comes to mind when you think of Christmas; presents, decorations, shopping, bustling, parties, family…? I think of these things. I enjoy the traditional elements of Christmas.
But these are (or should be) but the by-product of something much more thrilling, much more eternally significant. For those who know Christ, these are the expressions of an incomprehensible reality. Christmas is a man-made holiday with some pagan elements. But for believers, it is much more: the celebration of the incarnation. So come with me brother and sister in Christ, and “Behold Your God”.
That God would stoop to reveal Himself to man is incomprehensible. But the Old Testament is full of testimony of such communication. From Adam in Genesis through Malachi, God has spoken: through sacrifices, Noah’s Ark, the Passover, the mercy seat, and many prophets. But God’s ultimate communication of Himself is in a Son; His Son. What the Patriarchs anticipated, and the Prophets announced, was fulfilled in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Old Testament saints were saved by faith in the coming Christ, a faith completed in Christ and New Testament believers (Heb. 11:39,40). Never let it be thought that Old Testament saints were saved any other way. They were saved by faith in Christ. The Old Covenant revelation was partial. The New Covenant revelation in Christ is perfect. God Himself has put His “Selah” on it. He has spoken in His Son, with Whom He is well pleased. Hebrews 1:2,3 expounds this great truth. (1.) Christ is the possessor of God’s creation (heir to all things). (2.) Christ is the projector of God’s glory (the brightness of God’s glory). (3.) Christ is the personification of God’s self (express image of His person). (4.) Christ is the power of God’s order (upholding all things by the world of His power). (5.) Christ is the purifier of God’s people (when He by Himself had purged our sins). This is the Christ of Christmas, the Babe in whom dwells all the fullness of God.
God is not only revealed in the Son. He is revered in the Son. Christmas, the incarnation, is about the manifestation and glorification of God in Christ. All the fullness of God dwells in Christ He is no “lesser” God or mere God-like man. He is God of very God and worthy to be worshiped.
He is worthy by His Divine relationship. “He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than (the angels).”They were created, but He is the Firstborn (v.6). Firstborn is a designation of rank and importance, Christ is the eternal “Firstborn” of the Father: the Son.
He is worthy by His Divine right. That was a term used by kings of old to assert their right to rule. They saw themselves as appointed by God to rule. But the Father Himself says of Christ: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…” “Let all the angels of God worship Him (vv. 7&6).” Christ says of Himself; “…before Abraham was, I am (John 8:58).”
He is worthy by His Divine righteousness. God chose David to be king because he was a man after God’s own heart. David loved righteousness. But he sinned. But when God sent His son, He provided a righteous King; One who loves righteousness and is perfectly righteous. He was not only able not to sin, but more importantly and essentially, unable to sin. He is worthy of worship.
God is revealed in the person of Christ. God is revered in the person of Christ. And God remains in the person of Christ, for Christ is the co-eternal second person of the God-head (vv.10-13). Christ is the co-eternal Creator of all things, and the co-eternal conqueror of all things. The writer of Hebrews draws a stark contrast between the Creator and creation. There is no blurring of the lines, no room for pantheism. The creation is likened to a garment, subject to wear and decay. Christ the Creator is everlasting, unchanging, ageless. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).”
The eternal Creator is also the eternal Conqueror. No angel has ever been told by the Father; “sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies your footstool (1:13).” Christ is the ruler of heaven and earth. “He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love. “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life…(Heb. 7:3).” The Christ of Christmas is the eternal God. “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity. Pleased as man with men to dwell; Jesus our Emmanuel.”
Perhaps no uninspired writer has expressed the glory of Christmas and the incarnation better than H.R. Bramley.
“A babe on the breast of a maiden He lies,
Yet sits with the Father on high in the skies,
Before Him their faces the seraphim hide,
While Joseph stands waiting, unscared by His side.”
“Oh wonder of wonders, which none can unfold!
The Ancient of Days is an hour or two old,
The Maker of all things is made of the earth,
Man is worshipped by angels, and God comes to birth.”
“The Word in the bliss of the Godhead remains,
Yet in flesh comes to suffer the keenest of pains,
He is that He was and forever shall be,
But becomes what He was not for you and for me. “
The depth of teaching in God’s word and the depth of fellowship that was had at P4C’11 this year is hard to describe. The Lord blessed the faithful preaching of His word as it landed on the fertil soil of the attendees hearts. Many of you could not attended or did not fall into the category of this event. So, for those of you who could not be there, we have posted these audios for you to get a glimpse of what God did and glean from the depth of the preaching of God’s word. If you did attend, then they are here for you to continue the spark of growth that God began in your heart at P4C. Fill free to share these with others that would benefit from them. We do apologize in advance. Some of the audios have a few glitches on them, but they are audible. Hope you enjoy and as always we love hearing your feedback.
For His Glory,
On this Thanksgiving holiday, I have been reflecting on what families should be grateful for as they gather together to give thanks and reflect within themselves on the many blessings of God. It’s safe to say that we live in a society that, even in our “thankfulness”, lends itself to a self-focus. And further more, we very rarely give thanks to the Creator and Giver of all things. However, for those of us who are believers this should not be so. Everything in life is seen as a mercy gift from our gracious heavenly Father who loves us. The Psalmist gives us a command to give thanks: “Oh give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: because His mercy endures forever [Psalm 118].” In verse three of Psalm 118, the Psalmist tells the “house of Aaron” to give thanks. As a household, we should be giving thanks and not just on this holiday week but each and every day. I encourage you to read the rest of the chapter because I want to take a look at just a few of the many reasons this Psalm compels us to give thanks.
1. He is Merciful
The Psalmist repeats this phrase five times. It must be pretty important if it is given this much repetition. But why? Because he knows that without the mercy of the Lord, all of us, even the wicked, would not know the blessings we receive each day. It is only of the mercy of God that anyone in this world receives anything he or she has. Remember this as you drive your car. Remember this when you put on your clothes. Remember this when you take a hot shower. Remember this as you feast on this Thanksgiving Day.
2. He Hears us
“I called upon the Lord in my distress: the Lord answered…v.5” Our God hears us. He is listening and answering. Live and pray as such. Pray often. Give thanks often. Ask often. Know He is and will answer. He will deliver you. He will be your strength. He will meet your needs. He desires to commune with you in prayer.
3. He Fights for us
The Lord will and is fighting for you. He has helped and guided you. He has been your strength. When you were surrounded by the enemy or compassed by much sorrow and fight, remember as the Psalmist says [v.10-12], “for in the name of the Lord I [destroyed] will destroy them…” Never give up, because the Lord has and will fight for you.
4. He is our salvation
Grace has been pored upon us in over abundance. Our God has lavished His grace upon us. The Psalmist knows and proclaims it with confidence: “I will praise Thee: for Thou hast heard me and art become my salvation [v.21].” This, of all things, ought to make us most thankful: grace so rich and free. Give thanks for God’s grace. For by it you have been saved, and by it you now live.
From the Psalmist perspective, he tells a story of hardship. He has been wearied and torn. The fight has been intense. Suffering and evil have compassed him on all sides. Yet, he knows he has been blessed even in the midst of it all, because his God has been at his side. So, maybe it’s been a hard year for you and your family. Maybe things have not gone as you thought or planned. But remember this: “His mercy endures forever”. This alone is reason enough to give thanks. At the end of the day, whether as a family or as an individual, we know that anything beyond God’s saving grace is more than we deserve. We, of all people, should be most grateful. What reasons have we to complain? Our souls are being saved; our lives are in the hand of a sovereign and loving master. So, as you sit around the table with your family this Thanksgiving, remember that you of all people are most blessed and therefore have much to give thanks for.
Thanking Him with you,
How would you describe the perfect retreat: a quiet secluded beach; a cabin near a mountain stream? How about 60 people at a camp facility hungry for Christian fellowship and the preaching of God’s Word? How about a volunteer staff hungry to serve those who are attending? How about the blessing of God and the joy of genuine worship?
Passion4Christ Summit was a blessed retreat for single Christians who found that Biblical doctrine is not dry, stale, or boring but foundational for life. The balance of fun, fellowship, and fervent worship served as refreshment for tired, hungry, and expectant souls. For the Cavanaugh’s, it was all we coud ever expect and more. May the blessing of the Lord be upon His Word, and may fruit abound in the lives of those who heard it. We hope to see you at P4C’12!
This is a short post by our dear friend Brittany Crist [College Plus coach] who attend P4C’11. We thought you might like to hear from an attendee and how God spoke to her. Enjoy.
In the busyness of my life, rest seems elusive. Consumed by “doing”, I so often forget about the “being.” And yet our Lord tells me, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Passion4Christ Summit 2011 was such a time for me to re-focus. A time to lay aside the busyness of life, and truly seek His face. A leading by the still waters, where He restores our souls. A time to come to the foot of the cross once more, looking only to Jesus. To be still. And know that He is God.
Highlights of the week for me definitely included the fabulous speakers, incredible times of worship through music, the Ponderosa theme dinner night, the zip line, stories by campfire, and the volleyball tournament! However, my favorite by far was time of mutual encouragement with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. For “those who tell of battles won, or those struggling in the fight.” To recall His faithfulness together. For He who called IS faithful
P4C is truly all about…Jesus. Setting our gaze on Him alone. For all of life. As Mr. Novotny put it, it is all about our “GREAT BIG GOD, and itty bitty every other thing.”
So. Mark your calendar for the Passion4Christ Summit 2012. October 24-28. Ohio. You will not want to possibly miss it. You will come away changed. For His Word does not return void.
Until then, by His grace, let’s continue to rest IN Him in the midst of the busyness. For our souls do find rest in Him alone. Keep looking to Jesus!
Brittany Crist – P4C’11 attendee
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12: 1-2 NKJV
Is this not the desire of every Christian who has given even a moment’s thought on how they should live in this world in light of the glorious Gospel? Paul has spent time condemning every human under the Law of God so that every mouth may be stopped. He has described God’s unfailing love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He vividly describes the Christian’s struggle with remaining sin; however, even with the reality of the continuing struggle, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Further still, our salvation is as secure as God is, for it is He who preserves. He has humbled us by describing the mysteries of God’s electing purposes; it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs but of God who shows mercy. It is only after staggering us with God’s overwhelming grace in His gospel through His Christ that Paul then tells us to do something – that is, live worthy of the calling that God has called us to, as seen in Chapter 12: 1-2. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul gives us much guidance in very few words on how to accomplish that very thing, do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
This exhortation seems easy enough, but the reality of roadblocks to our Christian walk is clear. At their core though, most roadblocks are a result of our desire in our fallen nature to be autonomous. Let’s give that statement, which is a mouthful, a few moments reflection. First of all, the fact that there is such a thing as “human nature” is certainly not in vogue now. Biblically, our nature goes to the very core of our existence. We are the way we are because we are creatures created in the image of someone else. God has instilled in us, in the very fabric of our being, certain characteristics that reflect our Creator. For example, humans by nature are religious, worshipping creatures. Even the most hardened atheist has things, ideas, beliefs, that they pursue with religious zeal – note the current crop of “New-Atheists” with their evangelistic zeal to convert people to their way of thinking. We will worship something, even if it is the most irrational object or pursuit we can imagine. But the point is that we worship because God created us as worshipping creatures. It is in our very nature. This has been challenged in the modern era by materialism and is codified in existential philosophy by Jean Paul Sarte by the phrase “existence precedes essence.” This simply means that man is born with a clean slate into an absurd world and his environment and choices define who he is. There are no pre-existing conditions within humans that give them a bent one way or the other. If a man worships, it is because he has chosen to worship.
However, Biblically we see that man is created in the image of God and bears the mark of that image in himself by nature. Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the evening and enjoyed an intimate and unhindered relationship with God. The problem comes in the fall, when that image was ruined by sin. Man became “dead in our trespasses and sins” and “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3). Man’s total being fell, intellectually, morally, psychologically, physically and emotionally and his separation from God was complete. Since man by fallen nature rejects God, he becomes a law unto himself – in a word, autonomous. This is the definition of “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
The solution to our separation from God is Jesus Christ alone. And while our salvation that is found only in Christ does many wonderful and glorious things, we are not perfected in this life. Christians personally experience this imperfection, as the Apostle Paul records his own experience in Romans 7. Its purpose is to keep us humble, clinging to the cross and grow in an ever increasing love for the Savior. Yet Scripture demands that our lives should reflect something of the reality of God’s intervention in those lives because we are given Christ’s righteousness and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Paul can exhort us to not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Our task is to flesh this out in our own lives and spheres of influence. So we come to our question, how does one’s mind become renewed? And how does the renewal transform us from conformity to the world?
It is interesting that Paul ties the manifestation of a changed life directly to the way we use our minds to think and reason. So to begin this process of transformation, we must first acknowledge our natural desire toward autonomy and intentionally submit our minds and reason to the authoritative Word of God. Simply put, the Revelation of God must inform our reason. Our minds must be saturated by the Word of God so that we may reorient our minds from ourselves to Him. Paul himself exhorts us in Colossians 3:16 to “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”. All 176 verses of Psalm 119 are the Psalmists’ desire for God’s wisdom, knowledge and righteousness which only come through His Law. And this is not isolated to a few verses of the Bible. The entire book describes our need for God’s word to richly dwell and inform our minds, that we might think God’s thoughts after Him. It is the Triune God that transforms. It is His word that conforms us to Him and not the world.
It is this area, how we think, that we must reflect upon first if we are to not be conformed to the world but rather transformed with a renewed mind. If we are honest with ourselves, we will find that our thinking usually goes in this order; first Modern, then Western, then American and then Biblically. We really are products of our time and place. I realize that at this point this is an unproven assertion that is just kind of hanging out there, however, if we give some thought to what or who influences us and to what end, the picture will become a little clearer. Do we spend more time listening to our favorite radio talk show host than in the Word? Do we read, understand and get more excited about constitutional republicanism or free market economics than we do learning about our Savior? Do we have more interest in these modern ideologies than in people? Are we caught up in some version of the “American Dream”, pursuing what we think is the good life? Are we running from one self-help program to the next to improve our lives rather than meditating on what Christ has done for us?
One section of Scripture that God has put on my mind recently is Colossians 3: 12-15.
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”
If you are like me at all, you see your need to improve in each of these characteristics. You determine you need to be more kind, look for opportunities to display kindness, perform a few random acts of kindness and about a week later are more discouraged about your lack of kindness than ever before. We then look for the “how to be more kind in 10 easy steps” program and try to implement it. And again, after some period of time, our motivation wanes and we are back to our old routine, only this time loaded with more guilt because we see our lack of kindness and our inability to change ourselves. What we overlook is the little phrase that Paul slips in: “as the elect of God.” Do we take time to contemplate what Jesus had to do that we might be called the elect of God? Do we think about His leaving His Father in Heaven, His Incarnation, His perfect life, His wrath bearing death on the cross, His taking the punishment that we deserve, His love for us? Do we have any understanding of how sinful sin is and how gracious and merciful God is? If you are looking for motivation to be more kind, humble, patient and all the others, look no farther than the cross.
The Gospel saves and sustains, it is all the people of God need to live righteous and godly lives faithful to their Redeemer. Meditating on Christ and what He has done for you is the ingredient for the transformation of your mind and the breaking away from conformity to the world. It is through the power of the Gospel that we are able to go into the world, using the gifts and influence that God has given us. There is no easy formula for this. We will all be given different gifts, different responsibilities and different spheres of influence. We will face many situations that are not explicitly described in Scripture and will have to use our minds and reason to faithfully work the works that God has set before us. But thanks be to God that He has not left us to ourselves, but has given us His Word that we might meditate upon His thoughts and principles.
Finally, as a Christian, it is easy to be conformed to the world. It is easy to accept things as they are because it is just the way it is. It is easy to absorb the world’s mindset about money, politics, entertainment, sports, lifestyle, or whatever the world has made an idol. Conforming to the world makes getting through this world an easier task. What is difficult is “above all these things put on love” because this means that you are going to start looking at people – the sinners you live, work and play with, the gross, rebellious God-haters, those that really don’t think they have done anything to offend a holy God – and love them. This often means jumping into the septic tank where they live and getting that stink on you and sharing the love of God with them. This is only possible if our minds have been renewed by the God that got into our septic tank and pulled us out. Dwell upon His word and meditate upon His goodness to you, dear Christian. This is truly mind transforming.
We still have some room left at the Passion4Christ Summit ’11, and we would like to fill those spaces with you. So with that said, we have extended the registration deadline till October 15 just for you. Or maybe, you know someone you could tell about this great opportunity to come hear God’s word preached and worship and seek the Lord with His people. Another week and half for P4C reg. Help us spread the word about this opportunity!
For His Renowned,
In our last visit on the issue concerning missional focus, we jumped right into the methodology of missions. However, in starting with the methodology, we have begged another question that needs to be answer: what is the central motivating focus of missional work and why do missions exist? This blog will only afford us to answer the first part of that question in regards to the gospel. Although both questions are so very closely related that they cannot be separated, we will build the foundation so as to strengthen our answer to the second part of the question when we visit again.
Christ is Preeminent
Understanding the gospel is pivotal to understanding the implications it has on missional work. To assume that everyone understands the gospel is unwise at best because of how the gospel has been marred in modern evangelicalism.
Paul gives us the essence of the gospel in Colossians 1 in its simplest form: Christ is preeminent. If Christ is not preeminent in your life, preaching, or any aspect of you then it’s a sure bet that you may not have a biblical grasp on the gospel.
Christ has been and will always be the essence of all things. Verse 17 tells us, “And He is before all things, and by him all things consist.” This is the basis for which Christ, the son of the living God, could come and pay the price of redemption for His people. “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.” Looking to anything else as “good news” [i.e. gospel] is to mar and dismantle the very person of Christ. In Him all fullness dwells, and therefore as such, where else could the gospel come from? Christ is the essence of the gospel. He is the consistency. The all.
Christ came to earth and died a brutal death on the cross to reconcile His people who “were sometime alienated and enemies in [their] mind by wicked works [v.21].” Through “the body of His flesh through death [v.22]”, He not only has saved the sinner who looks to him but is working out the implications in His life “to present [Him] holy and unblamable and unreprovable in His sight.”
My friends, this is what we had to look to in order to know and understand this grace in our lives, and it is what we continue to look to. It is what all of God’s people from every tribe, tongue, and nation must look to. This is what we must proclaim to every soul that our missional endeavors bring us in contact with. We must point them to Christ and none other. To quote a wonderful hymn, “In Christ Alone, my hope is found”.
Be not moved away
After clearly establishing that Christ is the essence of the gospel, Paul gives us a charge and a personal glimpse as to the implications this has made on his life. He charges the Colossian believers to “continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the gospel.” And what is it that Paul is so emphatically saying that they must be grounded in and never move away from? The text is clear: the gospel; Jesus Christ and Him crucified; everything that Paul has just finished establishing is to be our bedrock. We are never to be moved away from this in anyway shape or form. The implications are profoundly life changing for the believer because it is his life. Our faith was rooted at the beginning in the gospel and it continues to be rooted till Christ returns. Ephesians tells us, “as ye have therefore received Christ Jesus, so walk ye in Him.” We received the gospel by faith and we must continue in the gospel by faith.
Therefore you are a minister
The personal glimpse that Paul gives us at the end of this charge sheds incredible light on the implications that the gospel is motivating the believer’s missional work. After driving home the solidity that the gospel gives our lives, he builds on this by sharing with us that the gospel is the very thing that has made him a minister. Lets take a look at verse 23: “and be not moved away from the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.” Paul has just stated with all clarity that it is the gospel that motivates him, that drives him, that gives him vision to be the minister that God has called him to be. For Paul, there is no greater reason. Paul was missional because of the gospel and so should we.
Proclaiming the gospel and its implications
We have talked a lot about the gospel being our driving motivation as a person who does ministry, but you may be asking: So where in God’s Word do we find the implication of the gospel toward “missional work”? Or, where is the GO in the gospel?
Well, in case you have not seen it already, Matthew 28:16-20 is the most obvious but in many ways the most profound place to turn in answering this question. It is here that we are commanded to, “Go ye therefore, teach all nations.” But what is it that we are to teach? The answer is found in verse 20: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” The reason this is so profound is because of the context in which it is being said. Realize that Christ has just died for the sins of His people. Remember that Christ has just spent three years teaching His disciples what the gospel is and all the implications it holds. Christ has just lived the gospel before them both in life and in death and now He is telling them to go and tell all nations the things you have heard, seen, and believed. He is telling them to move from where they now stand and go be missional. He is inspiring them with the pure and fresh unadulterated gospel they have just experienced. He is motivating them to go into all the world for the sake of the glorious gospel. And, the motivation is no less true for us: Let us be missional because of the gospel.
In all honesty, we have been building to one last question that I feel answers itself: is the gospel enough? Is the gospel the only thing that drives us to do missional work? Is it what makes us GO? My answer is simply, yes. And based upon God’s word, I will boldly say that any “missional work” that does not have the gospel as its core and sole motivation is not and will never be “missional work”. The gospel is our life. It is the essence of who we are as believers and should always have profound implications for what we do. I leave you with this: eat, sleep, breath, and teach the gospel.
For His Renown,
When we talk about methodology for anything when it comes to evangelism, there is always the danger of looking to the methods verses the person of Christ we seek to proclaim. Furthermore, when it comes to missions, volumes have been written on methodology. It always seems there is a more affective way to do things. “Follow these steps and you will see success in your ministry.” However, as I write this article concerning missions and its methodology, I realize that I to am making a contribution to the numerous things written on this subject. But I would like to ask a question that has been asked countless times: what is the biblical model for missions? Actually, let me rephrase this in a more personal way: Have we ever looked to the scriptures to understand what makes missions “affective”? How can true missions leave a lasting impact on generations to come?
There are many things that need to be addressed when asking the above questions, but for now I would like to focus on one aspect and Lord willing we will come back to the others. Lets jump right into the method. Lets see what the doing actually involves. Lets take a look at the life of Paul – a man who reached continents for Christ even while he was in prison. Lets dissect how Paul went into all nations with the gospel. Lets see what he actually did when he went.
Over the last several centuries, the church has sent missionaries to other countries with the hope of spreading the gospel to the lost. After all, that is what we have been commanded to do: “Go ye unto all the world”. We have raised large amounts of money to support and send these missionaries. The Lord has blessed the work of our hands and His word has not returned void. Countless people have come to know Christ and many stories could be recounted to bring praise to the mighty work of our God through these efforts. However, what happens when the missionaries “retire”? What happens when they leave the country they were serving? Does the work go on? Does it last? Many times it does and that is a testament to their investment to equip the ones who will continue long after they are gone. Lasting fruit can be seen in many countries today from past work of yesterday. However, is this the rule or the exception? It’s a fair question to ask and one that is not asked enough; one that is overlooked in modern missionary work, as we know today.
It is in long-term effectiveness concerning missions that I believe the Apostle Paul gives insight to what really is affective missionary work. Paul as we know was not a pastor but received the special call of the Apostleship. He was commissioned to write the scriptures and as such he had the authority to establish methodology. There are four things that I believe stand out about Paul and his missionary work; four things that stand out about His methodology to which we would do well to pay heed to in the church today…
He stayed for a time
During Paul’s missionary journeys in the book of Acts, we see many occasions were he stayed for long periods of time. Months at a time were the norm. He invested himself day after day to the building up of the saints. Many times it was even at the cost of putting his own life in danger or at the very least suffering brutal persecution in order that the gospel may be proclaimed and go forth in power. Paul was committed to one thing: the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He gave up all – and by all that means completely and fully. His life was not his own, and His love for Christ and the gospel is unmatched and unparalleled anywhere in history. Some historians say that Paul may have even been married since He was a former Pharisee with one of there requirements being marriage. If he was, we have no idea what happened to her. Did she desert him because of His conversion to Christianity? Did she die? Who knows? We are not told. But what matters is that Paul invested his days into the furtherance of the gospel through His missionary work at a cost. He built the gospel in others through the sacrifice of his time. He was not a fair-weather missionary. He was faithful. He invested. He gave his time. He gave his life.
He helped plant churches
We do not have time to go into the theology of church planting. We will only say this: it is biblical and primary. Paul was a church planter. The first place we see him planting churches in the New Testament can be found in Acts 13 & 14. It was on his first missionary journey with Barnabas that we see the church plants of Antioch, Lystra, and Iconium [as well as others]. More specifically, in chapter 14:21-28, we see that he ordained elders for those churches on his return visit [fair assumption that he established churches on his first visit with the new believers seeing he was ordaining the elders on the second.]. Let us not also forget that most of the books that Paul wrote were specific letters written to the local churches that he had help to establish during missionary journeys [Acts] through the years. Paul was committed to the body of Christ and more specifically to the building up of the local bodies that he help to establish. He occupied himself with establishing churches with the new believers of his missionary journeys. He new that Christ had ordained the institution of the local church for the purpose of building the saints for the furtherance of the gospel. He understood the importance of the continued discipleship in the gospel long after he would be gone. And further more, there was no way he could do it all himself. Other saints must be equipped in order for the gospel to continue you.
He equipped local saints
You will notice that Paul dealt specifically with issues that the local churches were dealing with in his letters of the New Testament. We noticed in Galatians, Colossians, and Ephesians him dealing with the heresy of the Gnostics, antinomians, or the Judaizers desiring to impose the laws and customs that had been fulfilled in the person of Christ. Or we have in Corinthians the believers who were having a hard time breaking the old habits of former lifestyles, which he challenged them to die to. And as we have already stated, he would spend months at a time exhorting the new believers that had come to Christ through the faithful preaching of the gospel on his missionary journeys [Acts 14:21-28].
He trained leaders
Throughout Paul’s life we see him not only proclaiming the gospel but also equipping other men to do so. He trained leaders to lead other people in the work of the gospel. Basically, he discipled, but more specifically he trained men who could fill the role of pastoral leadership within the local churches he established. The first time we see Paul taking someone under his wing is in Acts 16 with a young man by the name of Timothy. As we well know, Timothy would go on to be the pastor of the church of Ephesus. While in prison, Paul would write two letters [1 Tim. & 2 Tim.] to Timothy addressing him specifically as the pastor. He encouraged and challenged him in doctrinal clarity, church matters, the importance of discipleship, how to conduct himself as a young man in leadership, and to not loose heart in the work of the gospel. We also see him doing the same thing with Titus in the letter he wrote to him. And though he is not mentioned in detail as much as the first two, Mark was another individual who received the discipleship and training of Paul [2 Tim. 4:11; Act 12:25; Philemon 1:23&24; Act 13:5]. These men continued the work of the gospel in the places he had done missionary work even after Paul was dead. He followed a biblical structure that would and still does leave a lasting impact.
Paul reached continents for Christ. His missionary work covered most of the known world at that time. This is amazing considering he was in prison much of his life. However, he went unto all nations to make disciples, and everywhere he went he stayed for a time, planted churches, equipped the saints, and trained leaders who would continue the work of the gospel. He made disciples. This “methodology” was Paul’s life. It’s affective. It’s tried. It’s biblical. It’s the way God designed it and commissioned us to do it.
With this lifestyle, empowered by a gospel vision, he spent his life building the kingdom of God for His glory. It was his passion. It was his call. It was his life work. It was lasting. And, it must be ours. Though we are not Apostles, his life stands, as a continuing monument to what our missionary work should be patterned after – preaching the gospel and making disciples in order for the glory of God to continue from generation to generation till He comes again.
For His Glory,