Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September 17, 2013 - The church is God's missional & missionsal tool for evangelism

"I don't have the spiritual gift of evangelism" is a sentence I am used to hearing. I have heard it since I was 9 years old and our family were traveling from church to church attempting to raise full-time support to be missionaries in Africa. Usually that sentence is made in the context of us (our family) being special chosen ones to take the Good News to the "lost" while the speaker stayed home and attended church supporting the special ones, which usually included the local Pastor.
I have always assumed that rational came from the American penchant for "specializing" all jobs. Doctors have a specialty as do lawyers, plumbers, and chefs. It makes sense to us to think of the work of the church requiring specialists for evangelism as we do for preaching. Makes sense, but, it is wrong.
From its inception the church, the collected body of believers, was gifted so that the church could finish the mission Jesus gave us. That commission is the presentation of the Good News to people in such a way that they can understand its impact for their lives and make an informed decision to accept or reject it. That is why all churches are missional - they want their body to be active in presenting the Good News in their daily lives. The fruit of that is the increase in baptisms and usually numbers of members as well as attendees. When evangelism is set in the context of our family and neighbors it requires that we be missional in our everyday lives.
When evangelism is set in the context of people whose cultures differ radically or whose homes are geographically removed it requires us to support missions to those people and areas. The collected body of Jesus, the church, is God's tool for effective evangelism mission-ally and missions-ally.
I remember my Dad's response to one person who asked about becoming a "missionary." Dad asked who that young man was discipling (being missional to) to become a follower of Jesus. "No one, I don't have the gift of evangelism, yet," he replied. My Dad's answer was a conversation stopper, "If you aren't evangelizing among the people you know you are not going to do any better among the people you don't know."
Jesus' recorded words in Acts 1:8 apply to every church (the collected body of believers) both missionally and missionsally, "But you [all] will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you [all] will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
How is La Habra Christian Church (you all the collected body of believers) doing in these two areas?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Did Y'all Get That?

English is wonderful language. We are able to clearly and concisely express our ideas. When used properly English leaves little room for misunderstanding what is being said or written. Certainly there are contextual and emotional parameters that cloud meaning, but, as to the specific words used the meaning is, for the most part, clear. It is the "for the most part" that trips us up. Take the pronoun "you" for example.
One word used to refer to the second person singular (you the reader) and to the second person plural (you the readers), depending on the context. When used by Westerners it most commonly is used in the second person singular. That is unless you come from the South where we speak clearly to "you" or to "y'all" depending on the context.
However, in communal cultures, such as the culture during the time of Jesus, it most commonly refers to second person plural unless clearly otherwise in the context.
"So what" you ask? Good question.
Throughout the New Testament instructions and commands are often given to "you" which you and I read as to one person (Sherman in my case) when the hearers of that day would have heard as y'all. I believe this misunderstanding has led us to put more emphasis on the individual which has created a false assumption about our responsibilities as followers of Jesus. We assume that we as individuals are responsible to Jesus' Mission, or, the Pastor, as an individual, is responsible for the Church. We dilute the effort of the Church and minimize the contribution of the individual when we attempt to place specific responsibilities on a person rather than the people of the Church. Two passages from the Acts of the Apostles will illustrate.
Acts 1:7-10 records the ascension of Jesus. Just before He is lifted away He has one final instruction to reiterate. That He chose this one over so many others shows its ultimate importance. He could have reminded us of the love we are to have for each other, or, the need to live holy lives, but, he chose to say;
“It is not for you [all] to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you [all] will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you [all]; and you [all] will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Got it? The Great Commission was not given to individuals but to the gathered who were about to become the Church. Luke got it. Following Peter's message Luke records these words:
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" Acts 2:42-47.
To make a long lecture a little less long I will summarize:
Y'all be witnesses together, Y'all decide how to do that best in your cultural setting, Y'all do it to direct people to Jesus, and Jesus will do the saving. The Church, not the individual, is God's tool for directing people to Himself through Jesus.
We can hang out together or we can get hung up separately - the former is God's "normal" and the latter is our "natural."