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Archive for the ‘Evangelism’ Category


Jerram Barrs strikes again!  His book The Heart of Evangelism is a fantastic look at evangelism that truly gets to the heart of the matter.  He brings the same humble, gracious style to the subject of prayer with The Heart of Prayer: What Jesus Teaches Us.  He addresses topics that often seem to be guilt-inducing.  But he recognizes the internal and external obstacles to both evangelism and prayer.  He writes as a fellow struggler sitting at the feet of Jesus instead of as an expert practicioner.

Jerram focuses on Jesus’ teaching on prayer, so this book serves as a nice counterpart of D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation, which focuses on Paul’s prayers.  These 2 men are very different, and both books are excellent though different.  This book is very accessible to lay people.  He tackles issues like public and private prayer, fasting, persevering in prayer, and Jesus’ prayers for His people.  He includes an appendix on mysticism.

This is an encouraging book.  It is also a humbling book.  That is a great combination.

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I’ve come across Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community via the internet.  A growing number of church planters are utilizing the concept.  Steve Timmis, one of the authors of the book, is the new director of Acts 29 Europe.  The San Diego Church Planters’ Boot Camp, hosted by Kaleo, was on Total Church.  I’ve begun to listen, and just borrowed the book from a friend.

The concept is intriguing to me.  The church is a gospel-formed community of people being gospel-shaped.  They have a community-centered understanding of the gospel, which runs counter to the individualistic mindset of most Christians and churches today.  I’d like to consider the relationship between the gospel, community and mission more thoroughly.  It seems less like the “latest, greatest program” or method, but an attempt to return to the power of the gospel, and the emphases of the gospel.

Here is an interview with Tim Chester on Desiring God Ministries blog:

DG: Tim, what do you and Steve Timmis mean by the title Total Church?

Tim Chester: The phrase is actually adapted from the world of football (or soccer in the States!). “Total football” was a style of play associated with the Dutch international side in the 1970s.

“Total church” is our way of capturing the idea that church is not one activity in our lives. Church isn’t a meeting you attend or a building your enter. It’s our identity, our community, our family.  It’s the context for the totality of the Christian life.

DG: How would you summarize the message of the book?

TC: Total Church argues for two core principles: We need to be gospel-centered and community-centered.

Being gospel-centered means we’re word-centered (because the gospel is a message; it is good news), and it means being mission-centered (because the gospel is a message to be proclaimed; it is good news).

I think most conservative evangelicals are strong on this. But we also need to be community-centered. The Christian community is the biblical context for evangelism, discipleship, pastoral care, social involvement, and so on. That doesn’t mean meetings. It means the shared life of the community.

One of our catchphrases is “ordinary people living ordinary life with gospel intentionality.” It means doing the chores, having meals, watching sports, and so on with an intention to talk about Jesus, to pastor one another with the gospel, and to share that gospel with unbelievers.

DG: At several points in the book, you mention the value of hospitality. Do you see this virtue as lacking in the church today, and is there is an especially significant need for it in the 21st-century church?

TC: Here’s what I think is the key issue. In the book, we tell the story of a young man who invited us to do some street preaching with him. When we said it wasn’t really the way we did things, he clearly doubted our courage and commitment.

We began to talk instead about a whole life lived in mission and community, in which we were always looking to build relationships and always looking to talk about Jesus. By the end of the conversation, he admitted he wasn’t sure if he was up for that.

He wanted evangelism you could do for two hours on a Saturday afternoon and then switch off. Tick. Job done for the week. He didn’t want a missional lifestyle.

I think that’s the issue with hospitality. People want to put church and evangelism into a slot in the schedule. But we need to be sharing our lives with others—with shared meals and open homes. That can be demanding, but it’s also wonderfully enriching.

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I consider Proverbs to be “preventative grace”.  It was initially written to prepare young men for adulthood by providing practical wisdom.  It was to help them avoid the pitfalls of life’s choices rather than get out of them.  So, when I saw Anthony Selvaggio’s A Proverbs Driven Life, I was interested.  When I was offered a copy for free to review- I was estatic.

Before Selvaggio gets into the various topics that Proverbs covers, he wants to orient people to what Proverbs are, and aren’t.  Since Proverbs is a book about wisdom, it is about everyday life.  It is not about laws & precepts (he hits that again in a later section) but more like signposts.  Proverbs are generalisms that help us to make good choices by cluing us in to the typical outcomes. 

We need this book because, as he says, “people make a lot of short-sighted, self-centered decisions.”  And those decisions bring lots of misery to them and others.  We are a people who profoundly lack wisdom.

Proverbs offers us future-oriented wisdom and guidance so we can make wise decisions and live in ways that please and exalt God.

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In Galatians 1-2 one of the dominant themes is the fear of man.  Paul, in lovingly yet boldly confronting the Galatians, and exposing the false teachers was living in the fear of God rather than the fear of man.  He was not accomodating the gospel to please anyone, recognizing the divine origin of that gospel.

On the other hand you have the account of Peter in Antioch.  He, again, succombs to the fear of man (his besetting sin, and lest you’re too hard on him- you’ve got some too!).  He shrunk back from fellowship with Gentile Christians and hypocritically followed the dietary laws out of fear, not conviction.  And Barnabas joined him.  Two important Christian leaders fell victim to this sin- and Paul displayed gospel boldness by confronting Peter publicly.

While not referring to these events, Milton Vincent talks about gospel boldness in A Gospel Primer for Christians.

“Boldness is critical.  Without boldness, my life story will be one of great deeds left undone, victories left unwon, petitions left unprayed, and timely words unsaid.  If I wish to live only a pathetically small portion of the life God has prepared for me, then I need no boldness.  But if I want my life to bloom full and loom large for the glory of God, then I must have boldness- and nothing so nourishes boldness in me like the gospel!

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One of the controversies that has sadly plagued those who embrace Calvin as one of the more astute and faithful theologians concerns the “free offer of the gospel.”  Some followers of Calvin, a minority of them, reject the free offer of the gospel.  They believe, erroneously, that the gospel is only to be offered to the elect.  While listening to a former PCA worship leader lament Calvinism at the recent John 3:16 Conference, he described this strain of Calvinism called hyper-Calvinism.

While preparing for last week’s sermon on Psalm 16, I didn’t find Calvin to be particularly helpful.  This is a rarity.  But he did say something that should set the record straight on what John himself believed Scripture to teach.

“It would be of no advantage to us for God to offer himself freely and graciously to us, if we did not receive him by faith, seeing he invites to himself both the reprobate and the elect in common; but the former, by their ingratitude, defraud themselves of this inestimatable blessing.  Let us, therefore, know that both these things proceed from the free liberality of God; first, his being our inheritance, and next, our coming to the possession of him by faith.  The counsel of which David makes mention is the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, by which we are prevented from rejecting the salvation to which he calls us, which we would otherwise certainly do, considering the blindness of our flesh.  Whence we gather, that those who attribute to the free will of man the choice of accepting or rejecting the grace of God basely mangle that grace, and show as much ignorance as impiety.”

Calvin himself holds to the “free offer of the gospel” to all.  God truly offers Himself to the elect.  Notice how he phrases that- God offers Himself, not just salvation.  As John Piper noted in his book, God is the gospel.

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Buy this book, you all.

Buy this book, you all.

I mentioned the Reformissionary’s Big 5 Books series before.  I thought I’d cover evangelism.  Steve McCoy limited it to evangelism- so I can’t put down any books on apologetics.  I’m in trouble.

This doesn’t count, but it does have evangelism in the title: Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer.  He defends Calvinism from the various charges that it stifles evangelism.  What stifles evangelism in the sinful hearts of those called to evangelism.  Also not counting because the author is considered to be fuzzy on justification, but it is a book I found helpful is The Call of Grace: How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and Evangelism by Norman Shepherd.  Reminds me that as a Presbyterian, making disciples started with my children’s baptism (Mt. 28).

Books on My To Read List:

If you have any recommendations- put them down.  I obviously don’t know everything, which extends to every worthwhile book.

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This morning I was reading Colossians 4, and saw this:

2Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  (NIV)

 

First, I was convicted by the encouragement to be thankful in prayer.  I’m (by both nature and nurture) a glass half-empty guy.  Paul wanted them to be thankful as they prayed.  They were to have eyes that saw the good around them, not just the sin & misery.   They were to look for grace & mercy that were already there and thank God for it.

Second, they were to pray that God would open doors for the message of the Gospel.  God is in control, and he must open doors for the Gospel.  I was reminded to pray for the 3 mission teams I know of that are heading out in the next few weeks to Russia, LA and MS.  I want God to open doors for the message.  As I preach this Sunday, I want him to open hearts since he’s opened a door to preach the message.

Third, he asked them to pray that he would speak it clearly.  God is sovereign, even in salvation, and he alone grants faith and repentance- even to unlikely people.  But Paul was responsible to speak clearly.  He recognized this- and we need to recognize this as well.  God’s sovereignty in salvation does not mean we can be lax in either looking for open doors or in how we speak when we have one.

But Paul also recognized that he needed grace from God to speak clearly.  He was dependent on God to fulfill his responsibility.

So, because of the gospel …….

  1. Are you watchful for evidence of grace & mercy, and expressing gratitude?
  2. Are you praying for open doors for the message?
  3. Are you praying that God would help you be clear when you have an opportunity to present the message of grace?

Sadly, all too often I’m not- but I want to be.  I am responsible to be- may God help me to fulfill my responsibility.

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