Counterfeit Evangelism (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART VI – Tying It All Together

Lesson Sixteen: Counterfeit Evangelism

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves,’” (Matthew 23:15; NASB).

 

In 2008, I was deployed to Kuwait with the U.S. Army Reserve in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a medic with an ambulance company, I ran missions between camps transporting patients who needed different levels of care. In between missions, though, I made sure to be involved with a group of men who were committed to living for Christ in that desert context. One such man, a dear friend to this day, once issued a challenge to me. I had been studying a tremendous amount about apologetics. How to answer Mormons, how to answer Jehovah’s Witnesses, how to answer Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. My friend noticed that I spoke more about the errors of other religions than I did about the truth of Christianity. He challenged me to set aside my study of apologetics for a while and just study historic, Christian theology. In so doing, I found that my theology became my apologetic.

The better choice is always to focus on the genuine article than to focus on the counterfeits. Jehovah’s Witnesses meet four times a week to be indoctrinated in the teachings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. In most cases, the average Jehovah’s Witness can twist the above average Christian into theological pretzels, because of the theological ignorance of most professing Christians. Throughout the word of God, knowledge of God is put forth as a high priority for the saints. When we speak of sharing our faith or defending the faith, then, we must be very familiar with the content of that faith. We must know the genuine article far better than we know the counterfeits.

The same is true for evangelism. We have spent fifteen lessons discussing the genuine article regarding evangelism, and that is by design. It is imperative, if we are to be about the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that we know what the Bible teaches on the matter. Like a bank teller who makes a thorough study of genuine $100 bills in order to be able to spot any counterfeit, the church must make a thorough inquiry into the word of God in order to be able to distinguish between biblical evangelism and its counterfeits. Having defined the genuine article over the span of the last fifteen lessons, let us now take one lesson to consider some counterfeits.

Every-member evangelism. Many churches’ membership covenants tend to include a line or two about their expectations that all members commit themselves to personal evangelism. Such an expectation, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad. All Christians are expected to be ready to give a defense for the hope that lies within them (1Pt. 3:15). However, that defense will look different depending on the nature and circumstances of each individual encounter and the abilities of the Christian in question.

Every Christian is not called to pass out gospel tracts on the corner, knock on doors, speak only of Christ to their lost coworkers, and open-air preach in the local town square. In fact, most of those endeavors ought to be done by, or supervised by, individuals who have been recognized and sent by the church to do those tasks (Rom. 10:14-15). Why must these men be recognized and sent? As we have already established, evangelism is first-and-foremost about fulfilling the Great Commission, and the Great Commission is a local church endeavor. As disciples are made, they must be engrafted into a local church where they will be baptized and taught to observe the Lord’s commands. As such, evangelism done properly will reflect on the church, Christ’s bride. The reputation of the bride of Christ is at stake every time the gospel is preached.

Rogue evangelism. The second counterfeit is like the first. In fact, it might be said that the second is fueled by the first. There are many groups within the United States that have broken away from local churches and are attempting to do the work of the church, in the name of the church, detached from any regularly assembling, rightly constituted body of believers whatsoever.

These people often began by attending churches that strongly encouraged every-member evangelism and had lively street preaching ministries. They had a go at open-air preaching, and it gave them a sense of empowerment. Before long, though, they began to grow divisive. The church was not as radical in their approach to abortion as they were. Perhaps, they stirred up division within the body and tried to get the pastor fired over something petty, eventually leading to their expulsion from the church. Regardless, there are countless men in urban centers throughout the United States who preach in town squares, outside “apostate” churches, outside movie theaters, abortion clinics, and wherever else they may find opportunity who are in no way submitted to any local church.

We must be purposeful at this time to point out the fact that not all open-air preachers are rogue evangelists. Nor is all open-air preaching the work of churches that are forcing an unbiblical notion of every-member evangelism. What can be traced, however, by merely speaking with many rogue evangelists, is the fact that the majority of them cut their teeth on open-air preaching with churches that did not have a biblical understanding of evangelism.

Mere conversion. In C.S. Lewis’ radio talks, which later became the book Mere Christianity, Lewis described Christianity as a great building in which there were many rooms and a great hall. In order to get into the rooms, one must first enter into the great hall. Lewis’ mere Christianity was to be taken to represent that hall, and he saw it as his purpose to get people into that hall. He wrote, “If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted.” He further went on to explain, though, that the rooms (denominations) are where one finds the furnishings of Christianity.

Hopefully, we have gone one step further even than Lewis. In the previous lessons, we have hopefully made it clear that the goal of evangelism should never be to merely get people into the great hall of Christianity or even one of the rooms of a particular denomination. The goal of the Great Commission is to engraft new disciples into the life of one local church where they will be baptized and taught to observe all that Christ commanded. Mere conversion is not an option.

When churches or individual Christians set out to make mere converts, knowingly or unknowingly, they are setting out at the same time to make spiritual orphans. Imagine you run into a man on the street who tells you that the reason you are malnourished, frail, and on the brink of death is because you are starving. The man gives you bread, but then neglects to tell you where you might find more bread. This man has committed a kind act but, by failure to provide more vital information, he has only kept you from dying for perhaps one more day. Our job is not merely to point people to Christ, then, but to point them also to the local market where they might weekly assemble to draw from the storehouse of His grace.

Emotionalism. Many in our age have romanticized what Christ accomplished, and what He hopes to accomplish, for sinners the world over. They have come to believe in the notion that man not only has the freedom to choose God, but that such freedom is a necessary part of the gospel itself. These men and women argue that only if Christ died for each individual human being ever to have existed can the offer of the gospel be sincere. When speaking with Reformed Christians, they might ask, “Are you able to tell a lost person, ‘Christ died for you’?” adding, “If not, how can you do evangelism?”

One very glaring question looms at the back of such a line of inquiry. Where in the New Testament do we find the apostles telling an individual, “Christ died for you,” or even commanding the church to do so? Furthermore, if Christ died for each individual human soul that ever existed, what about those who died in their sins long before He was ever born? What about those since His death and resurrection who have never had an opportunity to hear the gospel message? The Bible is clear at once that Christ laid down His life for His sheep, and that the gospel is to be preached to everyone. The fact remains that Christians will never in this life know who the yet-unconverted elect are, so we are called to preach to all without exception.

What this line of reasoning amounts to is pure emotionalism. God must love all without exception in precisely the same way, or He is not truly loving. In order to understand God’s love a little better, let us consider one of the biblical pictures given us in Scripture of His love.

25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church,” (Ephesians 5:25-32; ESV).

Men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church. They are also called to love their neighbors and, yes, even their enemies. Are men called to take every neighbor into their homes, become one flesh with them, and provide for all of their physical and spiritual needs, even bathing them with the washing of the water of the word “‘til death do they part”? No. There is a unique love a man is called to have for his wife. We do not berate a man or think him a monster if his love for his wife is different than his love for other women. We rather praise him for it. Yet, when Christ is said to have a special love for His bride, emotions get heightened, and He is accused of being a monster.

Conversion to Calvinism. As biblical as it is to speak of Christ’s love in this way, bringing people to a clearer understanding of the doctrines of grace is not the gospel. We are not called to go and make Calvinists of all the nations. We are called to make disciples of Christ. A solid local church that truly understands the doctrines of grace will teach them, and the goal of evangelism is to make new disciples and get them into such a solid church. However, arguing with other Christians about the doctrines of grace is not the same as evangelism.

Neither is arguing with people about myriad other doctrines. One doctrine that is very important to Reformed Baptists is the doctrine of Christian liberty. Now, Christian liberty covers a wide array of subjects, but the main two that often come to mind are drinking and smoking. A few years ago, I was a member of a church that majored in street evangelism in downtown Fort Worth, TX. We would go to Sundance Square every Saturday and share the gospel with people as they walked by. A few blocks away were the Kingdom Baptists. These people would stand out in front of the movie theater holding signs and tell people as they walked out that they were going to hell for watching movies. Their message was all law and no gospel.

One day, as a couple of our young men were leaving Sundance Square and heading back to their cars, they were confronted by these Kingdome Baptists. I noticed them talking at a distance and was naturally curious as to the nature of their discussion. The next day at church, I asked one of the young men what was said. He said that they were debating with these Kingdom Baptists about whether or not drinking was a sin.

In hindsight, there was nothing necessarily wrong with discussing this topic with these men. They clearly needed to understand that their legalistic gospel was no gospel at all. However, I did take time to explain to my young friend that this debate they had with the Kingdom Baptists was not evangelism. With new disciples, discussions of Christian liberty can be quite important. When seeking to sow the gospel of Jesus Christ into a hardened legalist, it is often best to focus on the grace and mercy of Christ.

Method-ism. In this series of lessons, I have not sought to put forth a particular method of evangelism. It is my goal neither to teach a particular method nor to cast a negative light on a particular method. What I have found over the years is that almost all of the methods have pros and cons, and it is good to take the best of all of them and leave the rest behind.

My earliest exposure to evangelism was in doing Wednesday outreach ministry with my local church when I was in middle school. I did not fully understand why, but my local church wanted a group of us to go door-to-door and just let people know that we were there to meet their spiritual needs. Then, in late middle school and early high school, I started going with my local church on “mission trips” across the United States. These mission trips usually consisted primarily of work projects, running sports day camps for local children, and sharing what Christ had done in our lives when the opportunity arose. As a side note, I did all of these while professing to be a Christian, but being far from Christ.

In the Summer of 2006, I came under conviction from the gospel, experienced true godly sorrow over my sin for the first time, turned from my sin, and believed in Christ alone for my salvation. This church majored in clothing and food drive ministry, so I soon found myself sharing the gospel with, and praying for, many of the homeless and impoverished in Fort Worth while helping with these various ministries.

Not long after that, I was exposed to the Way of the Master approach to evangelism. In 2009, I joined a local church that majored in the Way of the Master approach and, for the next five years, was involved in street preaching and evangelism ministry. I still have a heart for a properly-ordered approach to street ministry, but I have since come to be skeptical of most of what passes for street evangelism today.

Diversify. I am now convinced that all of these methods have their proper place in the making of disciples as long as the goal is always to make disciples and not merely converts. I would encourage people to have a firm grasp of their personal testimonies and how to share them in support of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Read up on Evangelism Explosion, the Romans Road, and Way of the Master. Look into what godly, local church-led, gospel-centered abortion ministry looks like. Do all of this, and you will have come a little way toward helping your local church to fulfill the Great Commission.

A Singular Mission (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART VI – Tying It All Together

Lesson Fifteen: A Singular Mission

18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,’” (Matthew 28:18-20; ESV).”

In 21st century America, most organizations have a mission statement. Following suit, many churches have also developed mission statements to help them have a united purpose. Mission statements in-and-of themselves are not wrong. They can be quite helpful for uniting organizations of people under one cause or vision. The problem comes when God has stated the purpose for an institution, and it seeks to redefine that purpose. The question must be asked, then: If God has already given the church a mission, why are we still drawing up mission statements as though He hasn’t already spoken?

Mission Statements. A quick survey of the mission (or vision) statements of most churches demonstrates one or both of two things. First, many churches get the importance of the Great Commission in stating the mission of the church. They seek to demonstrate that they get its importance by using language that suggests as much. However, in talking about the importance of making disciples, they often use terms like creative or unique to describe their evangelism, suggesting that God’s word is not sufficient to teach us how to make and equip the disciples of Christ in the local church.

Others will hit on one aspect of the Great Commission (making disciples or, perhaps, foreign missions) while neglecting others, and especially baptism. A mission statement is often one of the first things that a potential visitor might read. Putting it out there that new disciples will be expected to make a commitment to the local church through something as public and personal as baptism is not a very seeker-friendly approach. Also, teaching is seen by many in our culture as “so one-sided.” That language could easily be replaced with talk of “helping” people move to the “next level” in their personal relationship with Christ.

A second thing made evident by a survey most churches’ mission statements is their man-centeredness. Even those that boast being Christ-centered will often spend the rest of the statement using terms like personal and individual, revealing how they really are more concerned with luring in potential church members than corporately honoring God. Even their man-centeredness is often shallow at best. They will give you cookie-cutter classes on how to move to the “next level” with Christ, but they often are more concerned with organizational matters than truly shepherding souls.

Think of some of the larger churches you have attended. Most likely, you barely knew the pastors of those churches and likely even spoke with several members who told you they had never met the man. This is the man that Hebrews 13:17 says must “keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account,” (NASB). Yet many of these pastors have never spoken more than a few sentences to many of the members of the churches they claim to shepherd.

The problem is not the size of the church, though. The problem is the lack of overseers necessary to shepherd such sizeable flocks. In order for true discipleship to take place, and the sheep to be adequately guarded against the wolves, pastors must share the work of the local church with other pastors to ensure that each member of the church is being fed, guarded, taught, encouraged, and built up in Christ.

Mission creep. Is there a problem, then, with mission statements? Yes. There is a problem with mission statements (plural). If a church does not recognize that they have already received their inerrant, infallible marching orders in the Great Commission, then they have already erred. The Lord has told the church what her mission is to be on this earth. We are to make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. That is the singular mission that should consume the local church. All other causes, purposes, or missions are to be subservient to this one all-consuming mission. When churches deviate from the God-breathed Great Commission, they inevitably engage in what is known as mission creep.

“mission creep: the gradual broadening of the original objectives of a mission or organization,” (Merriam-Webster).

When an organization commits mission creep, moving off of or broadening its originally stated objectives, the result is something far different than the original mission. The organization itself comes to resemble something far different than what it was meant to be. In the case of military organizations, the stated objectives are not met resulting military campaigns being prolonged. The church has been given her marching orders. We have a singular mission. We have not been commanded to broaden it or be creative. Our orders are very simple. We make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching.

What are some of the ways in which churches have decided to broaden the mission of the church in recent years? One way is by becoming overly political in their emphases. Some churches have gone so far as to have political personalities come and speak to their people about matters of state, people who have no business filling the pulpit on the Lord’s Day. These churches run the error of Saul who, as king of Israel, had no business presenting the ceremonial offering to God before going into battle (1Sam. 13:8-14). He who enters the solemn assembly on the Lord’s Day either enters as God’s uniquely called representative to distribute the word and sacraments to the people or as disciples of Christ who come to bring an incense offering of corporate prayer and song, and to receive the word and sacraments. There is, therefore, no office of magistrate among the assembly of God’s people during His public worship.

Nor is there any place for earthly inter-mingling of nationalism with the worship of God. Christ’s disciples should be taught to respect and pray for civil magistrates (1Tim. 2:1-2; 1Pt. 2:13-17). However, when churches engage in Memorial Day services or bring the American flag into the assembly of God, a boundary has been crossed that should not be crossed by God’s church. No nation is ever to be put on par with, or elevated above, the kingdom of God during the worship of God. When the citizens of God’s kingdom enter His embassy on His day, there should be a recognition that they are leaving the soil of their earthly nation and standing on the soil of the kingdom of heaven.

Christians do not exist to improve their nation, state, or city. The land on which our church meets has had six national flags flown over it. From 1821 to 1845 alone—the span of just 25 years—Texas went from Spanish control, to Mexican control, to independence, to American statehood. Imagine, if the same thing were to occur today, what utter chaos and confusion would set in for many churches. What flag would they have on their stage opposite and equal with their Christian flag? Which politicians and political commentators would they invite in to interview during God’s worship before His kingdom citizens? God’s people need to be those who recognize that God establishes kings and removes them from their thrown, but His kingdom endures forever. As such, there should be no inter-mingling of God’s worship with national pride.

Moving beyond this one glaring error, there are many also who wish to bring social justice causes into the mission of God’s church. These people often are more concerned about societal ills, as they perceive them, than making disciples. Some of these causes are noble and, insofar as they are addressed in Scripture, should be a part of local church discipleship. Men should be taught to be spiritual leaders in their homes and present influences in the lives of their children. Women, children, and the disabled should be protected from all forms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Partiality, in all its forms, should be openly shunned so that none are privileged above any others. Abortion should be outed as murder. Violence of any sort should be decried. The biblical definition of marriage and the marriage bed should be clearly taught.

In teaching on all of these issues, as well as the rest of the counsel of Scripture, Christ’s disciples will be adequately equipped to live for God as they ought. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work,” (2Tim. 3:16-17; NASB). Sadly, there are entire websites, podcasts, and organizations that have been established (some even calling themselves Reformed) that undermine the sufficiency of Scripture and have sought to smuggle worldly philosophies and the traditions of men into Christian discipleship (Col. 2:8-23).

These people see “white privilege,” “male privilege,” and even “straight privilege” (culturally defined labels) as necessary, mission-redefining concerns of the church. They suggest pragmatic solutions such as altering the hiring and ordaining practices of the church to be slave to worldly quotas rather than the leading of the Holy Spirit. They too seek to inject political discussions into the mission of the church, bringing up all manner of topics such as gun control, immigration, and the redistribution of wealth, as though these ought to be the primary focal points of the kingdom of God.

Sadly, the evidence is undeniable that the church has gotten off mission. Our purpose, our vision, our mission is to always, only be that of fulfilling the Great Commission. When we get side-tracked and start to follow red herrings, the enemy has succeeded in getting us off mission. When we are more concerned with social or political reform than we are with heart reform, we demonstrate that we have forgotten our first love. Let the church re-center on the primary mission to which we have been called on this earth: the Great Commission. As we do, we will return yet again to the chief end of the church of God. As we seek to make new disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching, God will be glorified and enjoyed as only He deserves.

Corporate Evangelism (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

_______________________

DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART VI – Tying It All Together

Lesson Thirteen: Corporate Evangelism

23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” (Heb. 10:23-25; NASB)

 

Pragmatic Gnosticism. Most books you will read on the art and importance of evangelism will center on what is commonly called personal evangelism. They are in essence how-to manuals that are often filled with bits of special knowledge (gnosis) accumulated through trial and error. One approach to evangelism is only more valid than any other if it is demonstrably valid (pragmatism). In weighing the truthfulness of ideas about evangelism, many Christians have come to agree with the father of modern Pragmatism when he wrote: “Truth happens to an idea,” (William James, Pragmatism, pg. 92).

As a result, those who sell books and get speaking engagements on the matter of evangelism are those who have developed methods and seen them “work.” They are seen both as having a special knowledge about the subject that only they can offer, and as having seen their means justified by their results. This brand of Pragmatic Gnosticism is detrimental to our understanding of evangelism. Just as detrimental, if not more, is any notion that evangelism is primarily meant to be a personal endeavor.

It’s in the realm of personal evangelism that the results of this gnostic, pragmatic Christianity is said to prove its worth. If you follow Joe Schmoe’s approach to evangelism, you will surely see an upsurge in people who “pray the sinner’s prayer” and “invite Jesus into their hearts.” You might even see a greater number of annual baptisms and an increase in church membership.

Individuals or kingdom citizens? We must remember, though, that our goal in evangelism is not to get people through the door or even into the baptismal waters. Our goal in evangelism is to fulfill the whole of the Great Commission: to make disciples, baptize them into covenant membership with a local church, and teach them to observe all that Christ commanded. Our goal in evangelism is to make kingdom citizens, not individuals. Sadly, many of us have come to think like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote: “I am waiting to be shown this prodigy in order to know whether he is man or citizen, or how he manages to be both at the same time” (Rousseau, Emile, pg. 6).

In the kingdom of God, we find our identities chiefly in our kingdom citizenship. Our worship is primarily corporate, and evangelism is calling others into our corporate worship of our sovereign King. We must, then, recognize that our evangelism is also primarily corporate. In our personal interactions with the lost, we must be always ready to give a defense for the hope that lies within us (1Pt. 3:15). We must also be overflowing with love for God and zeal for His kingdom to the point that we cannot but speak of it to the lost in our lives (Tit. 2:14).

Corporate commitment to teaching and preaching. However, we cannot of our own accord expect to give our lost loved ones everything they need for the conversion of their souls. The gospel is deeper and wider than anything we can hope to present in short snippets on our own. Furthermore, no individual Christian is anywhere commanded to teach any one disciple to observe all that Christ commanded outside the context of the regular, corporate assembly of the saints. The primary context for teaching the observance of Christ’s statutes and preaching God’s word is among His people on His Day.

23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” (Heb. 10:23-25; NASB; cf. John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).

It is as the church comes together as the church that evangelism becomes possible. When we think about evangelism, today, we think of it primarily in terms of making individual converts. In ages past, though, evangelism encompassed the whole of the corporate life of the church. For the Reformers and the Puritans, evangelism meant church planting—evangelism meant missions. These are areas where we really need to broaden our thinking about evangelism.

Corporate recognition of the gifted. It is the church corporate who recognizes godly men who are gifted for the task of preaching and teaching. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me,” (John 10:27; NASB). In this age in which direct, divine revelation has ceased, God directs His church through the indwelling of His Spirit and the leading of humble, yet vigilant, church leaders (Eph. 4:11-13; Acts 20:28-31). It is through the common suffrage of this Spirit-indwelt, elder-led body that God raises up godly men for the ministry.

“The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein,” (The Baptist Confession, 26.9).

Corporate education of the gifted. Consider for a moment the churches that supported Paul on his missionary journeys. They not only enabled him to journey to Ephesus and plant a church. They also enabled him to start up a school of ministry from which church planters like Epaphras were sent out to neighboring cities like Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea to plant even more churches. We can conclude from this noble effort of the first Christians that it is proper for local churches to associate with other likeminded churches to support seminaries and schools of ministry. The result of such schools is the inevitable planting of churches and the furtherance of the kingdom into farther parts of the earth.

One such seminary is being established over the next few years in Fort Worth, Texas, one of just a few Reformed Baptist hubs in the United States. The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies (IRBS) is a joint effort of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA) to ensure the education of the next generation of Reformed Baptist pastors. As our church seeks membership in our state and national association, and as the Lord grants success to our evangelistic efforts, we can expect that such noble institutions will eventually benefit from our contributions.

Corporate commitment to church planting and foreign missions. Evangelism means the recognition and education of the gifted, but it also means the sending of the gifted. Evangelism means sending, because evangelism and missions are so intrinsically intertwined. This sending begins locally and works its way outward. Minimally, it means that a church will support fully its local ministry. After that level of local support is achieved, then other local churches can be planted. From there, and through the joint efforts of church associations, support for foreign missions should be a desire.

Support for foreign missions means two things. First, it means the planting of churches. We must recall that every aspect of the Great Commission assumes the local church. If the lost in foreign contexts are to be reached, the corporate church must recognize, educate, and send gifted men. If they are to be baptized into covenant membership with a local church, a local church must be established in that foreign context. Finally, if they are to be taught to observe all that Christ commanded, they must have a local congregation with which to assemble under the ordinary means of grace.

The second thing support for foreign missions means is translation. If new disciples in foreign lands are to be taught to observe all that Christ commanded, they must be able first to hear all that Christ commanded in their own native tongue. This teaching is where charismatics get 1 Corinthians 14 so wrong. Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 14 was primarily on the lost. In the mission field, it was necessary for Paul to be able to speak in multiple tongues, so that people of many different languages might understand the word of God. In a local church context, though, the use of many languages would only confuse the preached word. This was the understanding of the Particular Baptists when, heavily citing 1 Corinthians 14, they confessed:

“The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope,” (The Baptist Confession, 1.8).

They understood the gift of tongues not as some erratic, unlearned gifting that bore a close relation to direct revelation and, thus, must have ceased with the apostolic era. They understood the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 to be the local expression of the gift of translation from one tongue to another for the edification of the saints and the furtherance of the gospel. Such non-revelatory gifts are still in practice today through translation committees, schools of textual criticism, live translation at multi-lingual local churches, and the mission field. It is not in the least charismatic, therefore, to say that the gift of tongues (translation) never ceased. In fact, this gift must likewise be recognized and honed for the furtherance of the kingdom through the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Personal implications. What does this mean for you as the ordinary person in the pew? It has a few different implications. It means that evangelism suddenly means a lot more than trying to figure out how to “break the ice” on a religious discussion while sitting next to a stranger at a ball game. It means a lot more, but it also simplifies matters. Rather than feeling all the weight of trying to figure out the perfect way to break out of your shell and start up conversations with total strangers, you are free to focus on how you can personally help the corporate church to fulfill the Great Commission.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • In submission to God’s word, how might I prayerfully help to recognize the gifted among our body?
  • How does my giving, outreach, and hospitality toward visitors help our local church to be fully sustained, plant churches, support seminaries, and support foreign missions?
  • How can I better support my elders in teaching new disciples to observe all that Christ commanded?
  • How can I be praying for the fulfillment of the Great Commission through the efforts of our local church?
  • How might you support your local church’s efforts to fulfill the Great Commission through prayer, regular attendance, hospitality, the discipleship of new believers, and fidelity to the teaching you have received?

Man’s Sin and Its Wages (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

_______________________

DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART III – THE PRESENT ESTATE OF MAN

Lesson Seven: Man’s Sin and Its Wages

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Romans 6:23; NKJV).

 

Man’s need for redemption. One of the biggest obstacles we face in our society, when considering the task of evangelism, is helping people see their need for the gospel. Many are simply unconcerned about their eternal state. Even those who affirm the existence of a god out there somewhere believe His primary attribute to be that of mercy, so they live as though they will never have to answer to God for their sins. As we saw in our last lesson, this has never been the Christian affirmation of who God is.

“Q.11. Is not God therefore merciful?

1. Yes, very much so! He is merciful, but He is also just, wherefore His justice requires that the same which is committed against the divine majesty of God should also be recompensed with extreme, that is, everlasting punishment both in body and soul,” (Hercules Collins, An Orthodox Catechism, Q.11).

We live in a nation that has largely forsaken this understanding of who God is. In fact, many Christians will tell you never to talk about sin, guilt, or repentance when sharing the gospel with people. They don’t mind discussions of the love and the mercy of God. They don’t even mind discussions of His holiness, as long as there is no correlation drawn between His complete holiness and the sinfulness of man.

The problem is that man cannot truly understand their need of God’s mercy unless they first understand His holiness and their complete lack thereof. Individuals must be brought to an honest, prayerful contemplation of their own personal sinfulness in light of God’s utter holiness and justice. They must be brought to understand that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23; NKJV), which means they personally have sinned and fall short of His glory. Until then, the gospel will make no sense whatever.

Until man is brought to an understanding of his sinfulness and the consequences thereof, he will see no danger in staying the course. He must be brought to an understanding that his sin means eternal destruction and damnation apart from the gracious provision of God, but engulfed in His eternal contempt. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous being then made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise, where they are with Christ, and behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies; and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell; where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day; besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none,” (The Baptist Confession, 31.1)

The sinfulness of the individual. Truly, man is fallen in Adam and death has thus spread to all men (Rom. 5:12), but the carnal man must be made to see the particular offense his own sin is against a holy, righteous, and just God. He must be brought, as by a schoolmaster, to Christ and His gospel by nothing less than the sheer condemnation of the law of God (Gal. 3:24). Until then, he will see no need for redemption. He will think himself basically good and in no need of atonement. He will think himself basically good, because he is self-deceived.

“To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled,” (Titus 1:15; NKJV).

The mind untethered to the word of God is a mind in darkness. Even Christians, the farther we stray from the word of God, wander into self-deception and the defilement of the mind. We must ever be confronted by the word of God in order to come to a true understanding of our sinfulness and how far short of God’s holy standard we fall.

One way that this conviction has been attempted in recent years is through an exercise in which the unbeliever is ask if she thinks herself to be a good person. If she says, “Yes,” the Christian asks if he can test that affirmation. If she concedes, he proceeds to ask a series of question about her obedience to the Ten Commandments. The unbeliever inevitably fails this test and, if convicted of sin, is then offered the gospel. I largely agree with this approach. There are just a couple issues, though, that I take with it.

First, there seems to be an assumption that a short 3-5 minute presentation should be enough to convict people of their sin and help them see their need for Christ. In most cases, much more work needs to be done. There needs to be a prolonged period of sitting under the preached word and much soul-searching on the part of the unbeliever. So, while the initial presentation of the law and the gospel might whet a person’s appetite for Christ and the preaching of His word,

We should not expect that most of these initial encounters will necessarily lead to the individual’s immediate conversion. Most often, the unbeliever needs to get under the preached word at a local church where they can be discipled and taught to observe all that Christ commanded. Through that process, Lord-willing, he may eventually turn from his sins toward God and put his full trust and allegiance in Christ Jesus alone for his salvation.

Second, there is often an extremely erroneous assumption made in the way that this method is employed. Some well-known adherents to this approach teach not to even share the gospel with the unbeliever unless he demonstrates a conviction of sin and a concern for final judgment. They claim that offering the gospel to such individuals is a casting of pearls before swine (Mt. 7:6). The problem is that the law only has the ability to lead one to the gospel. It has no power, though, to convict. That power is found in the gospel alone (Rom. 1:16). It’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance.

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4; NASB).

The universal sinfulness of man. The individual must be brought to an understanding of his or her own personal sinfulness. In the process of bringing the unbeliever to this understanding, though, an understanding of the universal sinfulness of man can be instructive. Imagine you are talking to a man, and he says that he is better than most. How do you respond? This individual needs to understand that he is comparing himself to a mass of fallen, depraved individuals who also fall short of God’s holy standard.

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” (Genesis 6:5; NKJV).

It always baffled me that pastors and theologians would point to this passage in Genesis, before the flood, when speaking of the universal depravity of man. Then, one day, it occurred to me that there was not real change in the constitution of man after the flood. We are still just as depraved as they were back then. The change that occurred after the flood was in God’s dealings with man’s sin. He established a covenant with all mankind whereby He promised never again to destroy the world with water.

Man, on the other hand, is still totally depraved and under the condemnation of the law. This is indeed a universal depravity. We are all sinners and thoroughly sinful. For a man to stand and say that he is not a sinner is for him to say that he is better than every other human being that has ever lived. It is the height of arrogance, because there is none good.

10As it is written:

‘There is none righteous, no, not one;

11There is none who understands;

There is none who seeks after God.

12They have all turned aside;

They have together become unprofitable;

There is none who does good, no, not one.’

13‘Their throat is an open tomb;

With their tongues they have practiced deceit’;

‘The poison of asps is under their lips’;

14‘Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.’

15‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16Destruction and misery are in their ways;

17And the way of peace they have not known.’

18‘There is no fear of God before their eyes,’” (Romans 3:10-19; NKJV).

Another response, especially in the South where a lot of erroneous ideas have been floated in the name of Christianity, is to say, “Well, you don’t know my heart, and you can’t judge me.” While there is some truth to this statement, the Lord has revealed enough about the heart of man in Scripture that we can state with confidence that every man is a sinner in need of redemption. In fact, those who convince themselves that they are not sinners have actually been deceived in their own hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?,” (Jer. 17:9; NKJV).

We, then, are up against impossible odds. We stand in a valley of dry bones and seek to preach to the self-deceived that they are utterly sinful both in body and in mind, the very sin that hinders them from receiving our message with gladness of heart. How can we have any rational expectation, then, that they will respond aright? Lest the Lord act, we cannot. Nevertheless, the gospel message must begin here: with an accounting of both the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man.

The Holiness of God (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

_______________________

DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART III – THE PRESENT ESTATE OF MAN

Lesson Six: The Holiness of God

“And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top, (Exodus 24:17; NASB).

 

The proper starting point. Having discussed the purpose of evangelism (making disciples) and the messengers and recipients of evangelism, we finally arrive at the actual message to be delivered in evangelism. This point is where the Reformed and biblical approach will differ from many modern approaches. A great many modern approaches to evangelism center the message either on the messenger or the recipient. They might begin with asking the recipient, “Would you consider yourself to be a good person.” Some other approaches begin and end with a mere telling of the messenger’s personal testimony.

In order to be truly biblical, though, evangelism must have as its primary Subject He who is the primary subject of the Bible itself: God. The goal of discipleship is to move the disciple from a place of enmity with God to a reconciliation with God, from a place of great disparity from God to an intimate relationship with God. The problem we seek to address, then, is a problem of location.

The carnal man is located outside of the covenant promises of God. He stands as a sinner who is on a crash course with the eternal wrath of God. All of God’s attributes require that justice must be served to the sinner, because God is a God of justice and all of God’s attributes are naturally consistent with His justice. One primary focus for our explanation of the gospel, though, ought to be His holiness.

The holy and the unholy. We’re told in Exodus: “And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top,” (Exodus 24:17; NASB). In bringing the sons of Israel to repentance, God first impressed upon them His holiness. He helped them to see that He was as a consuming fire among them (cf. Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29). He did the same with Moses at the burning bush when He told him to remove His sandals, “for the place where you stand is holy ground,” (Exodus 3:5b; NKJV).

The new disciple must first come to a recognition of the holiness of God before he or she can truly understand any of the message of the gospel. The new disciple must see that God’s holiness necessarily means consumption for the unholy. God’s holiness and justice demand payment for all sins ever committed.

“He is immutably determined by the moral perfection of his nature to visit every sin with a just recompense of reward, if not in the person of the sinner, then in the person of his Substitute. The terrible lake of fire and the cross of Calvary are awful testimonies to his absolute justice,” (A.A. Hodge, The System of Theology Contained in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, pp. 14-15).

The carnal mind may naturally balk at such notions as a God who would punish every sin. In a desire to continue in their sin and to treat it as of little consequence, the recipient of the gospel message may go as far as to say that he or she can never believe in a God who would punish sinners with an eternity of hell. A little exercise is instructive at this point.

An illustration. In order to demonstrate the importance and the necessity of the holiness of God, the gospel messenger needs to use a reference point. One such reference point that has proven helpful in many an explanation of the holiness of God is the unbeliever’s own innate sense of justice. We must be mindful, though, that this approach does not work with all men. Men are self-deceived creatures, and you may find that men and women with an Eastern or Middle Eastern worldview have often deceived themselves to the point of denying the necessity of justice in God, and even in some cases between men.

For those who do recognize the necessity of justice between men, you may ask them to think of the worst crime they can imagine followed by asking them, now, to imagine that crime being perpetrated on a small child. For the average man who is not actively suppressing the truth in regard to his sense of justice, just the thought of such an act should evoke a sense of righteous indignation. Allow that thought to weigh on him for a moment, and then move the subject to God.

The world over, nearly every theist will agree that the god in whom they believe and whom they worship is a god of love. This recognition comes to man by the light of nature placed within them and evident to them in God’s works of creation and providence. They know intuitively that God is love. Otherwise, the world would be far worse off than it is today. However—and this is the next question we want to ask our unbelieving friends—if God truly loves that little child, will He allow the crime against her to go unpunished?

At this point, you have come just a little way in helping your friend or family member to see the importance of God’s holiness to the discussion. However, God’s holiness is not merely the starting point or a rhetorical device to get us to the point of convincing our lost friends and family that they are in danger. God’s holiness is the ultimate reference point for all things in the universe. Everything we see, hear, and understand either aligns with or deviates from God’s holiness. His holiness is the great referent. It is the necessary starting point in our discussion of the gospel, because it is the necessary starting point in our discussion of God Himself.

God’s absolute justice. God’s holiness speaks to His great otherness and His great purity. It also speaks to His unrelenting hatred of sin—deviation from the holiness of God. It is for this reason that He absolutely must punish all sin. If He punishes some sin, but not all sins, He would be terribly inconsistent. He would possess some righteousness, a righteousness comparable to an earthly judge perhaps, but He would not be completely righteous. He would be righteous enough to punish some sin, but not righteous enough to punish all sin. However, if he is not righteous enough to punish all sin, how could He be righteous enough to punish even the greatest of sins. The Bible is clear, though, that God does punish all sin and, as such, it is a very grievous matter to be found in sin. Consider Isaiah’s recognition of his own sin, when he beheld the glory of God in his temple vision:

3And one called out to another and said,

‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,

The whole earth is full of His glory.’

4And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5Then I said,

‘Woe is me, for I am ruined!

Because I am a man of unclean lips,

And I live among a people of unclean lips;

For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts,’” (Isaiah 6:3-5; NASB).

To recognize the holiness of God is necessarily to recognize our terrible lack thereof. Isaiah recognized not only the great heights of the purity and majesty of God in his vision, but also the great disparity that existed between God and himself. He recognized not merely the sinfulness of the people among whom he lived, but he took the all-consuming holiness of God into the core of his own being, and he was utterly wrecked by what he beheld. Let us not be trivial, then, in our own assessment of God’s relationship to the sinner. God hates sin so much that He willingly poured out His wrath on His own Son in order that His justice might be satisfied.

“Not all the vials of judgments, that have, or shall be poured out upon the wicked world, nor the flaming furnace of a sinner’s conscience, nor the irreversible sentence pronounced against the rebellious devils, nor the groans of the damned creatures, give such a demonstration of God’s hatred of sin, as the wrath of God let loose upon his Son.,” (Stephen Charnock, Discourses on the Existence and Attributes of God, pg. 484).

Reconciliation with the God of perfection? God is completely separate in His holiness from sin of any sort. That is the definition of sin, after all: deviation from God’s holy standard. However, God’s holiness is not solely a negation of sin. It is also the complete perfection of His being. Berkhof explains: “But the idea of ethical holiness is not merely negative (separation from sin); it also has a positive content, namely, that of moral excellence, or ethical perfection,” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pg. 73).

The holiness of God does not exist in order to provide us with a rhetorical device to persuade unbelievers to recognize their sins. It is not revealed to us simply to provide us with a dilemma or a riddle that must be solved. It does, however, present us with a dilemma. It brings us before the holy, unapproachable throne of heaven, strips us bare, exposes all our shame, our imperfection, and our guilt, and leaves us condemned before a just and vengeful God.

Apart from some atonement, some payment, some divine pleading of our case, we find ourselves not merely separated from God, but under His just, holy, and eternal condemnation. As such, it is all too important that we help our unbelieving friends and loved ones to see themselves in the mirror of His infinite perfection. Do they hope to stand on the day of judgment? Apart from Christ, they should have no such confidence, for He dwells in unapproachable light.

“who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen,” (1 Timothy 6:16; NASB).

The Recipients of the Gospel (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

_______________________

DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART II – THE MESSENGERS AND THE RECIPIENTS

Lesson Five: The Recipients of the Gospel

So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek,” (Philippians 2:15; NASB).

 

In the world. When Christians in the West consider the work of evangelism, we often think of it in terms of outreach and church growth. As such, the primary focus is often placed upon getting youth and young adults through the doors of the church. We think of the man-on-the-street style of evangelism that most of us have seen on YouTube and other places. We think of knocking on doors, asking our waiters and waitresses how we might pray for them and leaving them a gospel tract with their tip, and having smoke break, coffee break, and water cooler conversations at work. In other words, our focus in much of our talk of evangelism is outward focused.

Today, I’d like to make the argument that evangelism rightly understood ought to be focused both outside the walls of the church and inside them. First, let us consider those outside the church. These are the most obvious recipients of our evangelistic efforts. It is most clearly modeled for us by the apostles in the Acts of the Apostles. We see not long after Pentecost and the gospel being brought to the Jews that it was soon brought to the Samaritans (Acts 8:1,4-25) and the Gentiles as well (Acts 8:26-38; Acts 10:9-48). This expansion of the kingdom of God beyond the borders of Judea was in keeping with Christ’s words:

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come,” (Mt. 24:14; NASB).

And…

“The gospel must first be preached to all the nations,” (Mk. 13:10; NASB).

As Gentiles living in a predominantly Gentile nation, we must recognize that our mere presence in this land is a fulfillment of Christ’s commission to take the gospel to the nations. When we leave our gatherings on the Lord’s Day and go into our homes, the marketplace, and our workplaces, we are going into the kingdom of man. We are entering the nations and bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. We are on mission, witnesses of Christ Jesus in our own context.

We see this idea expressed in Luke’s account of the Great Commission. Matthew is not the only apostle to have recorded the Great Commission for us. In Luke’s account, we see a bit more of Christ’s intent for the gospel. In Matthew’s account, Matthew highlights Christ’s command that we go into all nations in order to make disciples. In Luke’s account in Acts, we get a little more specificity.

7He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth,’” (Acts 1:7-8; NASB).

The church was commissioned not merely to go into every nation, but into “even the remotest part of the earth” in order to make disciples. We see in some denominations today a push to plant churches only in urban centers like Dallas, Chicago, New York, Paris, London, etc. Jesus did not only command that the gospel penetrate the urban centers of the nations in which we sojourn, but that it should be taken even to the remote pioneer locations like West Texas, rural China, the mountains of Chile, and even to tribes whose languages we’ve yet to learn.

Christ taught not to forbid even little children from coming to Him. He likened forbidding a child from coming to Him to forbidding every citizen of His kingdom from doing so, because “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it,” (Mark 10:15; NKJV). All who come to Christ are to believe in Him and trust in Him just like a little child. This is one reason we should not be opposed to properly ordered children’s ministries, like catechism classes, as are some in the church. We must labor to minister the gospel to the children in our midst. This is also why fathers and mothers must preach the gospel to and catechize their children. Do you have children at home? There should be no space in your home where the gospel is not being preached.

Are you the only true Christian, or one of only a few true Christians, in your workplace? You have an opportunity there to help your coworkers to understand the lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives and to, Lord-willing, be used of Him to make disciples in that very particular context. What other contexts might lend themselves to the making of disciples? Local political organizations, college classes, sports teams, scout troops, home school communities, etc. For our context, these are our “remotest parts.” Should the gospel have no representation in them? Should these be considered “safe spaces” from our witness to Christ?

In our midst. Certainly, we are called to make disciples of those who are outside of the church. Our gospel ministry does not stop there, though. We are also called to minister the gospel in our midst. Consider the words of Paul as he instructed the church at Corinth on the topic of Christian liberty.

19For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you,” (1Cor. 9:19-23; NKJV).

Paul did not merely assume that all of his readers, by virtue of the fact that they were members of a local church, were necessarily saved. This is a common mistake we often make in Reformed churches today. We just assume that everyone is already a believer merely because they profess to be so. On the contrary, Paul encouraged the church at Corinth: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified,” (2 Corinthians 13:5; NKJV). He didn’t just assume that they must necessarily be in the faith.

This is the reason why he wrote three entire chapters on the church’s use of Christian liberty. We are to practice our liberty in Christ with joy and liberality, but also with love toward our weaker brothers. If by our lack of caution and concern for our weaker brothers we cause them to stumble, we might also by the same act prove that we were never truly saved. “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified,” (1 Corinthians 9:27; NKJV). Therefore, all of us—teachers and disciples—are called to self-examination. We’re all called to make our calling and election sure.

Knowing that many within the church may not truly be saved, it is incumbent upon the church to minister the gospel on a regular basis. This is also why weekly attendance to the preached word is also important. As we sit under the preached word, we get more and more of a full picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is one of the main reasons why I am no longer convinced that we must have a cookie-cutter, five-minute gospel presentation that we preach every time we talk to our lost friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. Our job is to make disciples (learners), not converts. Whether someone is yet saved or not, if they are regularly sitting under the preaching of Christ, there is a very real, practical sense in which they are disciples. As these disciples sit and add weekly to their understanding of the gospel of Christ, they are also weekly subjecting themselves to the power of God unto salvation.

It’s not just the lost, though, who need to hear the gospel on a regular basis. We each need to be regularly reminded of the law of God, the gospel of Christ, and our need for continued repentance and belief in Him. So the weekly reinforcement of the gospel through the preaching of the word is not just for the benefit of the lost. It is also for the benefit of the saints. Consider the fact that Paul himself calls the Roman church saints (Romans 1:7). It was only a few short sentences later that he tells them that he is “eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome,” (Rom. 1:15; NASB).

Was this because he thought them not to be saved? Surely, based on what we’ve already observed from his letters to the Corinthians, he knew that not all of them were necessarily saved. That was not his primary concern, though. Paul recognized the duel effect of the gospel when preached in the assembly. For the lost, it is the power of God unto regeneration, justification, and adoption into the family of God. For the saints, though, it is the power of God unto sanctification, edification, admonition, and preservation. In both cases, it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

Also, where the gospel is not regularly preached in the midst of the saints, there is a great danger of a false gospel creeping in. Paul recognized this when he wrote to the churches of Galatia. He assumed that there were faithful ministers still preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, though there were some who were already trying to still them away with a false gospel.

8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed,” (Gal. 1:8-9; NKJV).

Let us be careful, then, to preach the gospel to all. Whether we are in the church or outside of the church, whether we are talking to a professing Christian or a raging atheist, let us ever have the gospel of Jesus Christ on our lips. Preaching the gospel to all people in all places, then, we will by exhausting all means at our disposal save some.

A Whole Church Endeavor (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

_______________________

 

DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART II – THE MESSENGERS AND THE RECIPIENTS

Lesson Four: A Whole Church Endeavor

“so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,’” (Philippians 2:15; NASB).

 

An endeavor. Making disciples from every nation is not something that happens by osmosis. It takes work on the part of the church. It’s something we pursue as a church, not merely something we hope will happen. It is an endeavor that starts with our view of Christ.

If we do not already have a high view of Christ in our everyday lives, we will not seek to bring His gospel to the world. We must, then, work to sanctify Christ—set Him apart as precious and holy—in every aspect of our lives. Only then will we as a church truly desire to commit ourselves to the work of evangelism in our community.

“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence,” (1 Peter 3:15; NASB).

As the Apostle Peter wrote, one of the effects of sanctifying Christ in our hearts will be that we will be always ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for our hope. Another effect will be that our defense will be with gentleness and reverence. We will recognize that it is not our message, but the message of God Himself.

As such, we will not seek our own ends in the methods and message we use, but we will seek His ends. We will be careful with how we handle the gospel of Christ, because it is not our gospel. It is rather like a car we have borrowed or a home we’re watching for a friend. As we handle it in the world, we will handle it with great care and great reverence, because it is not our own.

Another motivating factor that will drive us to our rightful duty of evangelism is the recognition that the world is a dark place. As we look around this world, even in our own nation, we see such deep darkness and misery. We see the depths of depravity, and how man’s heart is only, continually turned against God.

Seeing this great problem in our world should not drive us merely to social justice or political solutions. The problem of pain and of evil should drive us to shine our lights even greater in this dark and fallen world. It should not cause us so much to see solutions in activism or the promotion of this political candidate or another. Rather, it should cause us to recall the pure light of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fact that we have been called to reflect that light.

14Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain,” (Philippians 2:14-16; NASB).

We have been shown great mercy in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been granted the very word of life! As we hold forth that great word of life in this world, we hold forth a light that pierces the darkness and, where the light shines, no darkness can remain.

We know that “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more,” (Luke 12:48; NASB). We who have been granted much light are expected to shed much light into the darkness of our fallen world. Consider then how dreadful a thing it is that many churches that enjoy a high theology of God and sit under such a wealth of biblical preaching would be called “the frozen chosen.”

Our endeavors to make disciples then are not for the sake of achieving a closer relationship and more accurate view of God. Instead, they should spring from having received such a pure light. The Calvinist rightly decries the non-Calvinist who thinks he is earning anything from God for all the work he does. However, because the Calvinist recognizes Christ has already earned everything he needs from God, it should find all the more joy in his labors for Christ!

A whole-church endeavor. There has long been much debate over who is responsible to accomplish the work of evangelism in the life of the church. The short answer with which most can agree is that it is the endeavor of the whole church. Some might say that every member has a responsibility to do evangelism in much the same way as everyone else. Others might say that, with the support of the whole church, the officers and a few other chosen men are to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility of evangelism.

While both of these views would agree that evangelism is the endeavor of the whole church, I would disagree with both of these extremes. The Bible nowhere offers one cookie-cutter approach to evangelism or, much less, commands that everyone follow such a cookie-cutter approach. Nor does the Bible anywhere restrict the work of evangelism to a select group of ordained or recognized men within the church.

What we see instead is that every member within the church of Christ is called to be about the spread of the kingdom of Christ. For some this will mean a much more overt, visible teaching labor than for others. Some are called to go into the highways and byways and preach the gospel of Christ. These are the men that Paul means when he says that some must be sent.

“And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,

Who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (Romans 10:15; NKJV).

There is great wisdom in churches coming together under the direction of the elders to recognize godly men who are suited for the work of pulpit preaching, street preaching, teaching from house to house, teaching Sunday Schools, etc. As the preaching, teaching, and evangelism ministry of church elders allow, other godly men will arise who demonstrate the willingness, qualification, and ability to join and support them in their efforts. The Baptist Confession makes specific mention of such men.

“Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it,” (The Baptist Confession, 26.11).

Were the work of evangelism to be so narrowly defined as to only include that public teaching and preaching marked by the above definitions, we might be inclined to agree with those who say that all men must be recognized by the church in order to do evangelism. However, the work of evangelism is much more thorough than just the public ministries of teaching and preaching. Under this definition, workplace conversations, family worship, a mother catechizing her children, and discussions in the marketplace would all be considered something other than evangelism.

Used in its most general sense, evangelism is simply gospel preaching. That is what is meant in the biblical use of the term. When Paul told the church in Rome that he wished to “preach the gospel” to them (Romans 1:15), he used one word for “preach the gospel”: εὐαγγελίζω. He did not mean in the sense of making converts, but rather in sense of continuing the work of discipleship among them.

Christian discipleship is rooted in the gospel. In that sense, all who endeavor to aid in the work of discipleship are aiding also in the work of evangelism. For Christians who are hearing the gospel for the thousandth time, the work of the gospel on their hearts is be the power of God unto their sanctification, drawing them afresh to the bosom of Christ. For those who have yet to draw near to Christ in true discipleship, the gospel will hopefully be the power of God unto their regeneration, justification, and adoption into the family of God.

For this reason, sermons, Sunday School lessons, workplace conversations, family worship, daily instruction of children, etc., ought always to be done with a view toward supporting the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will not always overtly hit on the exact same elements of the gospel of Christ, but they must be conducted in such a way that they do no injustice to the true gospel of God. The whole life of the Christian, then, will be seen as a life lived in support of evangelism.

This evangelistic life should impact every aspect of how we view church. When pastors come to the pulpit, they should be mindful that the people need to be hearing the preached gospel and learning how to convey that same gospel. The people also, as active listeners, should come ready to learn how to take they gospel they are receiving and convey it to the lost and dying world in which they sojourn. For this reason, Christ gave pastors and teachers to the church: “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:12; NASB).

Teaching Obedience to Christ’s Commands (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART I – THE GREAT COMMISSION

Lesson Three: Teaching Obedience to Christ’s Commands

 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [a]always, even to the end of the age,’” (Matthew 28:20; NASB).

 

Defining a disciple. What is it to be a disciple. Discipleship means learning. That’s what the term in the Greek means: “to learn.” Christian disciples are first and foremost disciples of Christ. They will have to answer directly to Him on the day of judgment. However, they will not be the only ones answering for their souls. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews was very clear that teachers, too, will have to give an account for every soul they have been commissioned to teach.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you,” (Hebrews 13:17; NASB).

This was the practice of the early church. They gave themselves regularly to the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42). Teaching was so paramount in the early church that the apostles even requested that men be set aside from the church to aid in the administrative matters of the church so that they could more fervently devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:1-5). This is a vital role within the church. Deacons are necessary for the freeing up of elders for prayer and the ministry of the word, and as the word is preached, new disciples find their place in the economy of Christ as true, teachable disciples.

When Christ makes disciples, He does not leave them as orphans. Rather, He gives them the Holy Spirit as a Helper, a Comforter, and an Advocate. When Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, He sent the Spirit to us to guide us into all truth (John 14:16-26; 16:5-15). This same Spirit gives gifts to the church that are necessary for her unity in the faith (Romans 12:3-8).

Christ told His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed that it was for their benefit that He go. Why? In the giving of His Spirit, He was also giving godly men to the church for their preservation in the unity of the faith. He was giving them, and all subsequent teachers, to the church for her edification, refreshment, admonition, exhortation, and sanctification. The Spirit of God does His work primarily through the teaching ministry of the church.

7But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it says,

‘When He ascended on high,

He led captive a host of captives,

And He gave gifts to men.’

9(Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:7-13; NASB).

If a disciple is one who learns, then what is a disciple of Christ? What kind of disciples are we to be seeking to “make”? A disciple of Christ is one who submits to the teachings of Christ in His present teaching ministry, and Christ presently teaches through the teachers He has given the church through the Spirit.

What are disciples to be taught? Disciples are those who are to be taught to obey all that Christ commanded. They are not mere converts left to their own devices with no expectation of growth in holiness. They are meant to be brought into the church and taught the statutes of Christ. It is through the preaching and teaching ministry of the church, then, that we come under subjection to Christ. Outside the auspices of the local church, then, growth in godliness is not to be expected.

 “The bottom line is that God has designed the church to be the context in which we move from sinfulness to holiness. Attempting to grow in Christ outside of the church is like trying to learn to swim without ever getting into the pool!” (Mack and Swavely, Life in the Father’s House, pg. 29).

Consider then what a horrible thing it is to assure someone of his or her salvation outside of regular attendance to the preaching and teaching of the church. To offer a person such assurance is like assuring a blind man that he is in no danger as he walks toward a 500-foot cliff. Such assurance would be terribly unloving. Yet, this type of assurance is offered regularly by well-meaning Christians in the name of evangelism.

Disciples, then, are to be taught two main things:

“what man ought to believe concerning God, and what duty God requireth of man,” (The Baptist Catechism of 1693, Q.6).

This means that the disciple is to be trained thoroughly both in right doctrine and in right practice, orthodoxy and orthopraxy. We are to believe what God has said about Himself and, at the same time, walk in accordance with that belief. The word of God has given us sufficient testimony to both. As such, the role of the church in the life of the new disciple is to be one of pointing him or her to the word of God.

This is not just the job of the pastor in the pulpit. Other Christians are to be committed to the task of training up the new disciple in what we ought to believe concerning God and what He requires of us. The pastor cannot be everywhere at once. The whole church is required for the teaching of new disciples.

A further requirement for disciples is that they be teachable. After all, that is what a disciple is: a learner. The moment a disciples ceases to learn in accordance with Christ’s ordained means, he ceases to be a disciple of Christ. We must labor, then, to remain teachable at every turn of our Christian lives.

The Whole Counsel: Introduction to the Holy Scriptures

The Whole Counsel

Introductions to the Books of the Bible

 

 

Introduction to the Holy Scriptures

Several years ago, while celebrating a holiday at a friend’s house, I recall having a conversation with him about creeds, confessions, and catechisms. My friend had once claimed to be Calvinistic, but he no longer affirmed many of the tenets of historic Reformed theology. He told me that he used to use the confessions and catechisms in training his kids in the faith. However, he said he was no longer convinced of their benefit and now only uses the Bible.

I have often stopped to think about the assertions embedded in that argument. First, it assumes the confession and catechism are not designed to teach the Bible, or at least to summarize the core, essential teachings of the Bible. Second, it assumes one cannot both teach the confessions and catechisms and teach the Bible. Having spent a great deal of time studying The Baptist Catechism, and having come to a logical stopping point, I have decided to take the opportunity to teach a series of general introductions for each of the books of the Bible.

Q.3: How may we know there is a God?

A. The light of nature in man and the works of God plainly declare there is a God; but His Word and Spirit only do it fully and effectually for the salvation of sinners” (William Collins, The Baptist Catechism of 1693).

“The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience” (The Second London Baptist Confession, 1.1).

The starting point for all true Christians in confessing our faith is the Holy Scripture. It is the central point of all Christian believe and all Christian action. It is central to all we believe and do precisely because it is the very revelation of God to us. In the Bible, we learn “what man ought to believe concerning God, and what duty God requireth of man,” (The Baptist Catechism, Q.6). The primary way that God’s people demonstrate the centrality of the Holy Scriptures is by making them central to our corporate worship on the Lord’s Day, especially through the preaching of the word.

Our usual approach to Scripture from the pulpit is to examine it book-by-book and verse-by-verse. As we examine each event, doctrine, or precept, as it arises in the text, we incrementally receive “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27; NKJV). This reception of God’s whole counsel is incremental in that it cannot happen in one sitting. As we regularly attend to God’s worship on the Lord’s Day, we receive more and more of His word and, through the accumulation over time of all of the minor details, we develop a much larger picture of what we ought to believe and what duty God requires of us.

This new series is meant to take us out of the weeds, lift us high up into the air, and give us a bird’s eye-view of the Bible. Over the next few years, as we go back and forth between our study of The Baptist Catechism and this study, I hope to help the church have a more succinct understanding of the general structure of the Bible as a whole. As we learn from The Baptist Catechism what is principally taught in Scripture, we will be learning in this study where to find those teachings, as well as important people and events, in Scripture.

The Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek Scriptures

The Hebrew Scriptures are what we commonly call the Old Testament, and the Greek Scriptures are what we commonly call the New Testament. The Hebrew Scriptures account for us the general creation and fall of man as well as the choosing and the failure of Israel. Both of these major themes are also used to point us to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would redeem God’s chosen people from our sins. We understand God’s accomplishment of redemption in history through the several covenants He made with His people.

The Greek Scriptures provide us with the account of Christ’s work of redemption and its application to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. Where Adam fell, Christ rose. Where Israel failed, Christ succeeded. We understand Christ’s accomplishment and the Spirit’s application of of redemption through the New Covenant in His blood. The fullness of the revelation of the great mystery of the New Covenant is proclaimed to us in the Greek Scriptures.

The Books of the Holy Scriptures

There are sixty-six books in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures: thirty-nine books in the Hebrew Scriptures and twenty-seven in the Greek Scriptures. According to The Baptist Confession:

“Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these:

OF THE OLD TESTAMENT: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

OF THE NEW TESTAMENT: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, To Titus, To Philemon, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Epistle of James, The first and second Epistles of Peter, The first, second, and third Epistles of John, The Epistle of Jude, The Revelation

All of which are given by the inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life” (1.2).

Subcategories

For the benefit of our study, there are a few ways theologians and Bible scholars have decided to subcategorize the 66 books of the Bible. The first of these subcategories we’ve already mentioned: the Hebrew Scriptures (or the Old Testament), and the Greek Scriptures (or the New Testament). Within the Hebrew Scriptures, there are four more subcategories:

The Pentateuch (The Torah; The Law)

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

The Histories

Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther

The Writings (Poetry; Wisdom)

Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and The Song of Solomon

The Prophets

The Major Prophets

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel

The Minor Prophets

Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi

 

Within the Greek Scriptures, there are three more subcategories:

 

The Gospels and Acts

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts

The Epistles

The Pauline Epistles

Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

The General Epistles

Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John, and Jude

The Apocalypse

Revelation

 

The Characteristics of the Holy Scriptures

God does not use a cookie-cutter approach to writing the Holy Scriptures. The Holy Scriptures are not cookies; they are God-breathed revelation from the Most High. The Bible was written by “Holy men who were taught by the Holy Spirit,” (A Catechism for Boys and Girls, Q.15). Like a teacher might use several different pens for several different purposes when grading papers, God used the Bible’s human authors’ personalities, occupations, cultures, life experiences, and education to pen every word He foreordained should be penned.

These several books were written over the span of several centuries. They were written by authors of various ethnicities, occupations, original languages, cultures, income levels, personalities, etc. The Bible is also comprised of several genres of literature: history, poetry / wisdom literature, prophecy, didactic literature, and apocalyptic literature. As such, understanding the Bible more fully and accurately requires that we understand the author, the historical context, the occasion of the writing, the audience, and the purpose of the book.

Furthermore, we need to know things like the primary and supporting arguments that are made and the connection of events recorded to the major themes of the Bible in general and the central argument(s) of the book in specific. For teachers and preachers of the word, it is also important to understand the original languages for the purpose of understanding the common usage of specific words, how grammatical structures help us understand the focal point of certain arguments, and how to structure sermons according to the grammatical structure of the text.

Conclusion

In the weeks to come, narrow our focus to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Pentateuch, and eventually the specific books of the Pentateuch, we will have a more firm grasp of some of these themes. The goal of this study will be to help us have a better overall understanding of the Holy Scriptures, “the whole counsel of God.” We will understand not only the things we ought to believe concerning God and what duties He requires of us from The Baptist Catechism. We will also understand better the word of God in which we find these truths.

Will the Monologue NOW Become a Dialogue?

 

The past two years have been very exhausting on the ethnic front. As I’m sure most of you are aware, Gabriel Williams and I have been blogging on the subject of Public Theology. It has been a long and challenging series in part because there is much we would like to address day-to-day, but we have opted instead to stick to laying a theological, historical, and biblical foundation before jumping into the weeds. Some on our side of the argument might say that this decision has been made out of cowardice. For my part, I have been speaking out on this issue for several years, and Gabe has read the source material extensively that is often cited over at RAAN. Some on the other side of the argument might say that we should just “shut up and listen.” In fact, we’ve pretty much been told as much. At this point, it is also important to note that the issue of ethnic strife is not the only issue we seek to tackle in the Public Theology series.

Some of our readers may just be hearing of a popular evangelical website called RAANetwork.com (the Reformed African-American Network). Why are they just popping up on the radar of some? Recently, in response to the election of President-elect Trump, Jemar Tisby and Beau York recorded a podcast in which Tisby admitted that the following Lord’s Day he did not “feel safe” worshiping with “white people,” because of statistics that have been floated showing a large number of white professing-evangelical voters cast their votes for Trump (for the record, neither Gabe nor I voted for Trump).

Tisby’s admission should not be taken in isolation, though. It is indicative of the arguments made over at RAAN on a regular basis. His requirement for a “safe” space is indicative of the Marxist agenda RAAN has been seeking to smuggle into the church for years. His labeling of Christian brothers as “white people” is indicative of RAAN’s not-so-subtle push to de-centralize Christ and erect ethno-centric dividing walls among God’s people. It is safe to say, after a few years of following them, that the majority position over at RAAN is one of ethnic partiality and ethno-centrism, not Christ-centrism.

In response to Tisby’s comments, Pastor Saiko Woods offered the following comments:

To his credit, Pastor Woods has been very vocal against RAAN’s teachings for some time. Dr. James White also chimed in on this 1 1/2 hour long episode of the Dividing Line.

We are glad that others are joining the conversation, even if RAAN does not seem to want to have a dialogue on this issue (just a monologue). We are also hopeful that others will be willing to take note of some of the other, more sinister teachings going on over at RAAN. As RAAN’s teachings reverberate throughout the church, we are convinced that they will wreak havoc on local churches everywhere. Please take some time to go and expose yourself to some of their teachings and then familiarize yourself with our series on Public Theology. We pray that the monologue will soon become a dialogue.