Understanding Ministry

Author: 
Dennis McCallum and Gary DeLashmutt

Understanding Ministry is a teaching tool designed to enable groups to delve into ecclesiology and applied theology in the area of ministry within the local church. Most of the Teacher's Guide is also included here for browsing.

Book 1: Understanding the Church

Teaching Goals for Book 1

Before we can move into the particulars of biblical teaching on the church and our role in it, we have to understand correctly what the church is.

In this book we will be studying:

  1. The origin of the church and its relationship to the Old Covenant.
  2. The use of the word "church" as it applies to the universal and local church.
  3. The pattern of church government, or leadership in the early church.

Later, we will be studying why these areas are important to church life today.

The Origin of the Church and Its Relationship to the Old Covenant

Teaching Goals:

  • To understand the biblical basis for viewing the church as a distinct program from Israel.
  • To understand the practical importance of viewing the church as a distinct program from Israel.

The foundational question in formulating our doctrine of the church is: Which part of the Bible will we use? Should we use the material in the Old Testament? What about the gospels? Our answer to these questions have a number of important implications, as we will soon see.

Our answer to this question depends on our understanding of when the church began.

Protestants have tended to answer this question in two basic ways: Some define the church as comprising all believers from Adam on. Accordingly, they feel the freedom to include some of the Old Testament material in their understanding of the church. This is also the position of Roman Catholicism. Others define the church as comprising all Christians from Pentecost on. They therefore see the church as a distinct program from Israel. According to these, the primary biblical materials which define the church are Jesus' explicit teaching on the church (e.g., Mt. 16:18; 18:17; 28:18-20), Acts, the epistles, and Rev. 1-3.

Those who believe the church began on the day of Pentecost justify their idea from Scripture following way:

  1. The church is Christ's body. (Col. 1:18)
  2. The baptism by the Holy Spirit is the means by which believers in Christ are incorporated into his body. (1 Cor. 12:13)
  3. The baptism by the Holy Spirit began on the day of Pentecost after Christ's resurrection. (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4; 11:15-17)
  4. Therefore, the church began on the day of Pentecost after Christ's resurrection.

Confusing the Old Covenant and the church

Because some churches feel the freedom to use Old Covenant material in their understanding of the church, they have an inherent tendency to incorporate Old Covenant structures into church life. Consider the following examples.

Tabernacle/Temple

Past Purpose: The tabernacle was a prophetic picture of God's intent to dwell in his people; his presence dwelt in the building in a unique way. The symbolic events conducted in the tabernacle explained why God could not indwell his people (because of their sins) and how he would one day overcome this problem (by making atonement for their sins through his chosen substitute).

Present Error: Now this prophetic picture has been fulfilled. God dwells in every Christian and in the church corporately; the church is the temple of God. (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Pet. 2:4,5) Thus, it is no longer proper to regard any building as the place where God dwells in a special way.

Discussion:

What effects would we expect from this error?

Possible Answers: Most people view the church as a building rather than the people indwelt by God. Many people superstitiously believe the church building (or the sanctuary therein) is "God's house" in that his presence is localized there more so than anywhere else. For this reason, people often speak in hushed tones when entering a sanctuary, even when no one else is there! Parents tell children not to run or play in the sanctuary because "this is God's house." Not only does this suggest God is anti-fun; it also communicates that God is still unable to indwell us personally as we come to him through Christ.

Priesthood

Past Purpose: The high priest was a type of Christ. (Heb. 3:1; 4:14) For this reason, he alone was permitted to enter into God's presence with a sacrifice for the people's sins. The other priests were a type of Christians in that they could draw near to God and communicate the knowledge of God to the people. The rest of the people were essentially passive participants in the service of God.

Present Error: This clergy-laity distinction which was valid in the Old Covenant period is now invalid. Because of Jesus' sacrifice, all believers have equal access to God and equal privilege to communicate the knowledge of God to others. ((Heb. 10:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:9)

Discussion:

What effects would we expect from this error?

Possible Answers: The effect of the clergy-laity distinction has usually been to discourage unordained Christians from ministering in significant ways. Church members often think it is the minister's job to reach out to others, teach the Bible, give spiritual counsel, etc. With no significant ministry purpose to pursue, many church members by default become enmeshed in materialism, which offers a counterfeit significance. This is a tragic squandering of the resources of the church.

Sabbath and Festival Calendar

Past Purpose: God gave the Israelites a full calendar of "holy" days. The Sabbath and the prescribed festivals were largely prophetic pictures of the salvation which Jesus would accomplish. (Col. 2:16,17)

Present Error: Now that Christ has paid for our sins, every day is holy in the sense that salvation has occurred once and for all. Paul makes it clear in Rom. 14:1-5 that only those Christians who are "weak in faith" ascribe intrinsic spiritual significance to the observance of the Sabbath. In Gal. 4:1-11, he says that Christians who go back to observing the festival calendar are regressing rather than progressing spiritually.

Discussion:

What effects would we expect from this error?

Possible Answers: Many people erroneously believe that what matters to God is that we go to church on Sundays, or at least on Christmas and Easter. The effect of this formalistic approach to God is to reinforce the impression that an impersonal relationship with God is what he desires.

Liturgical Worship Service

Past Purpose: The Old Covenant worship of God was highly ritualistic. This was because it was designed to be an elaborate predictive picture of the work of Christ. (Heb. 8:5) The content and order of this ritual observance was highly regulated because it taught that we must come to God in the way he prescribed - by faith in his Substitute.

Present Error: Now that these pictures have been fulfilled, they are obsolete. (Heb. 8:13) Not only does the New Testament not describe or command a worship service for the church; there is also a positive reinterpretation of this whole concept (see section on "Worship in the New Testament"). Also, the number of prescribed rituals has been drastically reduced (from hundreds to two) and the regulation of how to observe them has been minimized.

Discussion:

What effects would we expect from this error?

Possible Answers: Those who subscribe to the necessity of liturgical worship invariably communicate an impersonal relationship with God when the way is now open to have an intensely personal relationship with him. Also, it is all too easy to continue to observe ritual even when the reality of the relationship is not there. This is why we have so many ritualistic churches today where the members do not know God personally. This ritualism is a turn-off to those who long for personal contact with God.

Infant Circumcision

Past Purpose: Infant circumcision was a ritual given by God to Abraham and his physical descendents. (Gen. 17:9-14) Circumcision was to be the sign that Israel was God's people. It was also a symbol of their need to be liberated from the bondage of their sin- natures. (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4) God predicted that when Messiah came, he would "circumcise your heart . . . to love the Lord your God." (Deut. 30:6)

Present Error: The symbolism of physical circumcision has fulfilled in the death of Christ through which he disarmed the authority of our sin natures. (Col. 2:11) In spite of the fact that all clear examples of baptism in the New Testament are adult believers, many churches see infant baptism as the church's counterpart to infant circumcision. Roman Catholic doctrine states that it removes the guilt of original sin, thus teaching that spiritual regeneration comes through baptism. Many Protestant denominations erroneously believe that passages like Rom. 6:4 and Col. 2:11 refer to water baptism, and thus almost seem to teach baptismal regeneration.

Discussion:

What effects would we expect from this error?

Possible Answers: When asked if they will go to heaven, people commonly answer "yes" because they were baptized as infants. Infant baptism has the effect of de- emphasizing the necessity of personal conversion to Christ. Instead, it communicates that salvation is something entered into on the basis of parental decision or ritual observance. This is a formalistic definition of Christianity which leads to whole churches full of nominal Christians (in name only).

Emphasis on the Law

Past Purpose: The Old Testament law code was a national contract with Israel which stipulated the conditions by which they could enjoy the land of Canaan. (see Deut. 28) It also had a spiritual value in that it showed them their need for God's grace which would be given when Messiah came. (Gal. 3:22-25) For both of these reasons, it was entirely proper for Israel to have a "law emphasis."

Present Error: The church is not a national entity living in Canaan, but an international community. Furthermore, now that Christ has come, we have access to new ministries of the Holy Spirit, making it possible for us to serve "in the newness of the Spirit rather than the oldness of the letter." (Rom. 7:6) The emphasis of the church should therefore be on the good news of God's grace, not on the Law and the threat of God's judgment.

Discussion:

What effects would we expect from this error?

Answers: Many denominations emphasize the Ten Commandments more than the grace of God. The effect is that many people grow up with the view that God is primarily a God of judgment rather than a God of love who has provided a way to forever escape his judgment. Some respond to this emphasis by running from God altogether; others become self-righteous. In either case, the unchurched person does not get the impression that Christianity is about the grace of God.

Outreach Strategy

Past Purpose: God's strategy for reaching Gentiles in the Old Testament period was centripetal. As the Israelites stayed in the land and followed the Law, God granted them national security and material prosperity. Foreigners would notice this, and some would thus adopt YHWH as their God. (Deut. 28:7-14; 1 Kings 10:1-12) The main reason for this "stay in the land" strategy was that the Holy Spirit was not operative in the same way he is today, so the Israelites needed to be a separate culture to prevent complete apostasy.

Present Error: Since the coming of the Holy Spirit, the God's outreach strategy has changed from centripetal ("stay in the land") to centrifugal ("go into all the world" - see Mt. 28:18; Acts 1:8). God's people are no longer to be a distinct culture, but rather are commanded identify culturally with those that they seek to reach (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Also, whereas material blessing was at times a legitimate national indication of Israel's obedience to God (although see Deut. 8:11-14;31:20; Prov. 30:8,9; Neh. 9:25.26; Hos. 13:6), this is not the case in the church (see 1 Cor. 4:9-16; Rev. 3:14-19).

Discussion:

What effects would we expect from this error?

Possible Answers: Churches commonly emphasize "witnessing by your lifestyle" instead of teaching that every Christian is to actively reach out to the lost through verbal evangelism as well as through an attractive lifestyle. Many churches also have developed their own sub-culture which effectively isolates them from non-Christians. In addition, many churches affirm the Old Covenant view of wealth and thus passively (or even actively) condone materialism. These features are clearly at odds with God's present strategy.

Relationship Between Church and State

Past Purpose: In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was both a spiritual and national entity. The government of Israel was originally a theocracy, eventually replaced by a theocratic-chosen king. God needed a nation where he could preserve the witness he was accumulating about himself. It was entirely in order for God to call on the government of ancient Israel to operate the nation in a just and godly way.

Present Error: In the New Testament, the church is not expected to function as a nation state. On the contrary, the program is clearly different as witnessed by the call to submit to, and obey the Roman government--one of the most godless and brutal governments in history. (Rom. 13:1) The New Testament is devoid of any call to take over society or to run society God's way. Unfortunately, many Bible interpreters continue to read the Covenantal promises and warnings addressed to Israel in the Old Testament as though they apply either to the church, or to the United States (or other countries). 

A very common example of this confusion is the often quoted passage in 2 Chronicles 7:13 "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." It is a mistake to apply this passage to the United States? It refers to the cursing/blessing section in the book of Deuteronomy. The people who are called by God's name are Israel. There is in fact no such promise extended to other countries. 

One qualification is needed on this point. In the ancient world, there was no opportunity to vote on government issues or candidates. We do not know what God would have said if there was. Probably, a good ethical case can be made for Christian activism in politics as long as it falls short of attempts to establish a Christian state.

Discussion:

What effects would we expect from this error?

Possible Answers: History is full of examples of catastrophic results when the church has concluded that it is to run the state. A nation state often has to operate in the area of compulsion, punishment and even war. All of these things are inappropriate for the church. The church needs to keep crystal clear loyalties, excluding any non-biblical insertion into Christian doctrine. 

Manipulators use values similar or even identical to those in the Bible to get Christians to back their agendas. For instance, no two themes are more universal in world religions than the sanctity of the family and the sacredness of the given cultural-national heritage. Oriental religion often actually worships parents and ancestors. Islam views the state as expressly a religious entity. Most oral religions are one and the same as the government of the tribe. This has tended to be true of Christianity as well in Europe. The medieval church was convinced that the state was to operate under the spiritual authority of the church. 

Linking the universal appeal of blood and soil values with patriotic values and religion leads to the formation of a civil religion which is sometimes only nominally Christian. For instance, the implication of a prominent evangelical leading whole football stadiums in prayer before games is clear- -all or most of those present must be Christians. It is easy to see why people begin to believe that Christianity is synonymous with American citizenship or church membership. 

This nominal Christianity is one of the most deadly threats to real Christianity for two reasons. In the first place, it causes people to believe that they are Christians when they are not, and secondly, it misrepresents Christianity to the secular world. Instead of seeing real vibrant spiritual living on the part of the church, society sees a Christianity that is plagued by confusion and mediocrity. 

Francis Schaeffer has argued, "If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute." Francis Schaeffer, How Shall We Then Live? (Old Tappan NJ: Fleming H Revell Company, 1976), p. 224. What does this statement mean, and do you agree with it? What absolute should judge the state, and what if the majority don't agree with that absolute? Should the Bible dictate morality even to non-Christians?

Conclusion

From these examples we can see why it matters what biblical material we use in constructing our understanding of the church! If we answer this question wrongly, we are far more likely to go astray in setting the whole tone for what Christianity is like.

The New Testament Definition of a Church

What is the Universal Church?

Definition: The Universal Church derives its definition from the baptizing ministry of the Holy Spirit. The key verse on this is 1 Cor. 12:13,"by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body." We see from this passage that the church is like the physical manifestation of Christ, i.e., his body. 

Other passages which use the same imagery are Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:11,18,27. The point in all of these passages seems to be that anyone who has experienced this baptism is automatically a member of the body of Christ.

Words used for the church in the New Testament

Church
The word translated "church" in the English Bible is ekklesia. This word is the Greek words kaleo (to call), with the prefix ek (out). Thus, the word means "the called out ones." However, the English word "church" does not come from ekklesia but from the word kuriakon, which means "dedicated to the Lord." This word was commonly used to refer to a holy place or temple. By the time of Jerome's translation of the New Testament from Greek to Latin, it was customary to use a derivative of kuriakon to translate ekklesia. Therefore, the word church is a poor translation of the word ekklesia since it implies a sacred building, or temple. A more accurate translation would be "assembly" because the term ekklesia was used to refer to a group of people who had been called out to a meeting. It was also used as a synonym for the word synagogue, which also means to "come together," i.e. a gathering. "Body of Christ" Since believers have been united with Christ through spiritual baptism, they are sometimes corporately referred to as the body of Christ. (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:11,13,18,27; Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:30) The idea seems to be that the group of Christians in the world constitute the physical representation of Christ on earth. It is also a metaphor which demonstrates the interdependence of members in the church, while at the same time demonstrating their diversity from one another. (Rom. 12:4; 1 Cor. 12:14-17)
The Temple of God
(1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:21,22; 1 Pet. 2:5).
The Jerusalem From Above or The Heavenly Jerusalem
(Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22). Both of these terms (as well as "temple") illustrate how the Old Testament notions of outward sanctuary have been replaced with the literal dwelling of God in his people.
Bride of Christ or Christ's Betrothed
(Eph. 5:25-32; 2 Cor. 11:2). These titles refer to the love and loyalty existing between Christ and believers.

What is the Local Church?

In this discussion exercise, ask the students to describe the scope or area encompassed by each of the following references. The point is that in each reference, the word "church" is in the singular. Since the scope of what is meant by each reference is different, we can draw conclusions about what constitutes a local church.

Discussion exercise:
For each of the following verses, answer the question: "What geographical area is being described?"

  1. Col. 1:18
  2. Acts 9:31
  3. 1 Cor. 1:2
  4. Rom. 16:5,10,11,14

Answers:

  1. Col. 1:18 the church throughout the world
  2. Acts 9:31 the church throughout a region
  3. 1 Cor. 1:2 the church in a city (compare 14:34)
  4. Rom. 16:5,10,11,14 several house churches within one city

Question: What are some implications can we draw from these four passages concerning what size or structure a group must have to be considered a local church?

Answers: The word "church" is not a technical designation of a local group of any particular size or structure. Instead, it apparently described any extent of locality under discussion.

Therefore, in answer to the question, "What constitutes a local church?" the scriptural answer is that any part of the universal church which is somehow local can be said to be a local church. We would suggest this holds even down to the level where ". . . two or three have gathered together in my name. . . " (Mt. 18:20) This seems to be Christ's version of what is necessary to have a local church. 

A church of two or three may not be a very good church in that it is not able to fulfill all of the functions that are appropriate for a local church according to the New Testament, but this does not mean that it is not a church. A distinction must be made between that which determines the "being" of the church versus the "well-being" of the church.

The Local Church in the New Testament

While the definition of the local church is based upon our understanding of the universal church, the imperative passages about church life usually refer to the local church (i.e., Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12,14; Eph. 4).

The significance of this is that if we try to apply principles like the inter-working of the members of the body as taught in 1 Cor. 12 to the universal church, we move away from the intention of the author to focus on the interaction of members on each other in Christian community.

Likewise, no structure or polity is given for the universal church except the unifying influence of the apostles who planted the local churches. There is also an example of a council of leaders from more than one local church meeting to resolve differences in Acts 15. We cannot say what the biblical pattern of extra-local church government was, since it is not given.

Optional discussion: It is customary in many theologies to construct a restrictive definition of what constitutes a local church. Sometimes several conditions, such as the proper observation of the sacraments, the presence of duly established clergy, a formal government, and ministry to all ages are given before a group can be called a church. What might be the motive for constructing such added conditions?

Leadership or Polity in the Local Church

Polity refers to the government of the church. Although there is no reason to think we are limited to the forms of polity used in the New Testament era, it is instructive to see how they ran their churches as a beginning point.

How were New Testament churches led?

There were two offices evident in the New Testament church: elders and deacons.

Elders

Elders vs. Bishops: The office of elder is synonymous with the office of bishop. (See Acts 20:17,28 and Titus 1:5,7 where the two terms are used interchangeably). "Elder" comes from the word presbeuteros which means an older man, and therefore describes a person who is relatively mature spiritually. "Bishop" comes from the word episkopos which literally means an overseer. Therefore, this term describes what the person does (i.e. oversees the local church). 

The New Testament church appears to have consistently established a plurality of eldership in each local church.

  • Acts 14:23 - ". . . appointed elders (plural) in every church (singular). . . "
  • Titus 1:5 - ". . . appoint elders (plural) in every city (singular). . . "
  • 1 Pet. 5:2 - ". . . shepherd the flock (singular) of God among you (plural). . . "

The qualifications for elders

These generally fall into two categories:

He must be functionally effective in spiritual leadership

Just as Jesus said sheep would know the voice of their shepherd, (see John 10:4), it seems likely that those considered for eldership in the early church had already demonstrated the ability to lead. This is probably why Paul waited for a while after starting the churches in Ephesus and Crete before he had Timothy (ch.3) and Titus (ch. 1) appoint elders.

It took time for the true leaders to naturally emerge. 

The ability to lead others in spiritual matters is also implied by the fact that the elder must be "skilled at teaching" (1 Tim. 3:2), or, "able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). A teacher is not skillful unless his students learn. Learning includes how to do God's will, not just how to know it. (James 1:22-25) Finally, elders and deacons had to "hold fast the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience" (1 Tim. 3:9) which would not be possible if they were guilty of sins of omission (see also "above reproach" 1 Tim. 3:2). 

All of these references imply that elders had to be practitioners of the Word, not just theoreticians.

He must be morally upright and consistent.

The emphasis in the Bible is on character even over and above function. You can study a list of the qualifications for elders along with suggested definitions for each.

Deacons

Likewise, Deacons were required to have functional and character requirements before they could serve. You can study a list of qualifications for deacons along with suggested definitions.

Qualifications for Elders

Paul emphasizes spiritual maturity and character over gifting. It is possible to be very gifted and knowledgeable, yet immature or carnal. Immature people often get into leadership, where they do the church much harm (see Diotrophes 3 Jn. 9). There is nothing wrong with the desire to be a Christian leader (1 Tim. 3:1), but it must be for the right reason.

Since these qualities describe spiritual maturity, they are helpful in that they describe the character that the Holy Spirit is seeking to produce in all of our lives. Not surprisingly, most of these qualities are prescribed elsewhere in the New Testament for all Christians. If we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us into a man or woman of God, we can be sure that God will put us into the roles of leadership that he has prepared for us.

Optional Discussion:
The Holy Spirit uses passages like this to turn up "blind spots" in areas so that we will allow him to change us over a period of time. As he convicts you, how should you respond?

Answers include

  • Acknowledge to him your lack, along with how you see this lack concretely manifesting itself in your life currently.
  • Agree that you want him to change you in this area.
  • Agree that you cannot change yourself, but that you believe that he can change you in this area, no matter how deeply entrenched it is.
  • Ask him to give you practical steps of faith to take.
  • Look for those who are strong in this area, observe how they exhibit this quality, and talk with them about how they developed it (Phil 4:9; 1 Cor. 11:1; Heb 13:7).

Regular Discussion:
As general roadmaps to what spiritual maturity looks like, these lists of character requirements are directly applicable to our own lives.

  • Why are each of the following character traits important in Christian living and ministry?
  • How can we cooperate with God to supply us with each requirement?

Above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6,7) - anepilempton: unaccusable; anegkleton: unreprovable

  • This is the summation of all other characteristics.
  • Not only the absence of disqualifying factors is in view, but positive things are evident
  • A good reputation spiritually (Acts 6:3; 16:2).

Husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2) - mais gunaikos andros: "one-woman man"

  • This probably does not refer to polygamy (which was not common in the Roman empire), but rather that sexual morality is an established life-style.
  • This qualification does not exclude divorcees; present life-style only is in view (as with all of the qualifications).
  • This includes flirting, porno habits, inappropriate "counseling" of the opposite sex, etc.

Temperate (1 Tim. 3:2) - nephalion: sober

  • This is the opposite of being mentally and spiritually dense. It is linked with alertness in 1 Thess. 5:6 and 1 Pet. 5:8.
  • The person has a clear perspective on life, and a correct spiritual orientation.

Prudent (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8) - sophrona: thoughtful, self-controlled, sane

  • The person is mentally healthy (Mk. 5:15; 2 Cor 5:13).
  • He has an honest evaluation of himself which involves neither arrogance nor self-hate (Rom. 12:3).
  • The person evidences the ability to be reasonable, sensible, able to keep one's head (Titus 2:6; 1 Pet. 4:7).

Respectable (1 Tim. 3:2) - kosmion: well-ordered

  • A habit of orderliness and stability has been established (see 1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:4).

Hospitable (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8) - philoxenon: "lover of strangers"

  • The person takes a genuine interest in new people. This would include both an outreach orientation and the willingness to open his home to others (Heb. 13:2).

Able to Teach (1 Tim. 3:2) - didaktikon: skilled at teaching

  • The elder must understand Scripture well enough to be able to effectively exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict (Titus 1:9).
  • This does not necessitate being a gifted large-group teacher.
  • "Grounded in the Word" means that the elder can explain and apply biblical concepts in your his words, and discern error when he hears it.

Not Addicted to Wine (1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7) - me paroinon: "not lingering over wine"

  • The person has a demonstrated freedom from drunkenness, or substance abuse. There is no dependence on alcohol or other drugs.
  • Able to give up freedom to avoid stumbling a weaker brother (1 Cor. 8)

Not self-willed (Titus 1:7) - me authade: not a usurper

  • This is linked with rebelliousness in 2 Pet. 2:10, and with usurpation of rightful authority in 1 Tim. 2:12.
  • There should be a proven ability to defer to others.
  • Avoids a "my way or the highway;" attitude.
  • To "defer" means that you actively get behind the others' way and help it to succeed.
  • Implies he is able to apologize

Not quick-tempered (Titus 1:7) - me orgilon: not inclined to anger

  • The person is not vengeful or violent, brooding or bitter (see Eph. 4:29,31), especially when he doesn't get his own way.
  • When Moses struck the rock (Num. 20) he was refused entry into Canaan. When leaders misrepresent God by making him seem more angry than he really is, it's a serious thing (Jas. 1:19,20)
  • Leaders may get angry, but they should be slow to anger rather than having a short fuse.
  • The leader must be under control, avoiding violent outbursts
  • Elders must be able to drop offenses, not hold onto them

Not pugnacious (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim. 3:3) - me plekten: not a striker

  • The person is not prone to physical or verbal abuse (i.e. slander, put-downs, etc.)
  • Not a fighter

Gentle (1 Tim. 3:3) - epieike: gracious, forbearing

  • The person is not unduly rigorous or legalistic in his treatment of people.
  • He is kind, empathetic and patient with all people.
  • The opposite of quick-tempered, or pugnacious.
  • People are fragile. We need to consider how our words and actions will affect them. See 2 Tim. 2:24,25; 1 Thess. 2:7; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 4:3; Col. 3:12,13; 1 Tim. 6:11; Gal. 5:22,23; Jas. 3:17.

Uncontentious (1 Tim. 3:3) - amachon: peaceable

  • This means not looking for ways to disagree or oppose; not loving to fight or quarrel.
  • The person possesses a positive and constructive point of view.
  • This is the opposite of being self-willed.

Free From the Love of Money (1 Tim. 3:3) - aphilagruron: not greedy

  • This means the ability to be content with what one has materially (1 Tim. 6:8).
  • The person is not motivated by financial considerations in ministry goals (see Acts 20:33)
  • True love for Christ and his work will become eclipsed by greed (see Mat. 6:24). Our day is replete with newsy examples of the error of money-love in the church.
  • See 1 Tim. 6:6-11,17-19. Mature elders should give away much to others, and should live a simple life-style in order to curb temptation.

Manages own household well (1 Tim. 3:4,5; Titus 1:6) - prohistemenon: to stand before; manage; to lead, used of an army commander standing before his men

  • This is a demonstrated ability to lead spiritually and effectively in marriage and/or a rooming situation
  • The elder's family should respect him and voluntarily follow his leadership
  • Examining one's family life tends to ensure that the person is spiritually authentic and not two-faced.
  • Christian leader's first responsibility is to their own family. Prioritizing and practicing biblical principles with family and home is crucial in cooperating with God

Not a new convert (1 Tim. 3:6) - me neophuton: "newly planted"

  • The person has been a walking Christian long enough to be tested by God (see 1 Tim. 3:10)
  • The person should have experienced success without becoming conceited

Having a good reputation with those outside (1 Tim. 3:7) - exothen: used by Paul for non-Christians (Col. 4:5)

  • Non-Christians are unable to discredit the person.
  • They speak well of him generally, and accusations are easily exposed as false (1 Pet. 3:16).
  • The person is spiritually authentic and not two-faced. This is has important, obvious implications for evangelism.
  • The elder resists a Christian ghetto mentality, and fosters a constant awareness of the watching world

Loving what is good (Titus 1:8) - philagathon: loving good

  • The person's lifestyle demonstrates that God's way is enjoyed (see Rom. 12:2)
  • There is no questionable dichotomy between the person's recreational life and ministry

Just (Titus 1:8) - dikiaon: righteous

  • The person is fair and impartial in his dealings with people (1 Tim. 5:21).
  • When favoritism and particular biases are adopted, the biblical concepts of righteousness and goodness fade, and with that, God's agenda and priorities.
  • To gain victory in this area, one must be well aware of what his own bias tendencies are, and must resist those in favor of biblical truth

Devout (Titus 1:8) - hosion: Practical seriousness and zeal for God's will

  • A single-mindedness for God and His work.

Discussion:
What kinds of things would you expect to occur in the case of an elder who meets the functional requirements, but not the moral requirements? 

Now Flip the coin: what if the elder had the moral, but not the functional requirements? Of the functional requirements and the moral requirements, do you think one is more important than the other? Why?

Qualifications for Deacons

What Deacons Do

The role of deacon in the New Testament is ambiguous. The word literally means "servant", but no further elaboration of the office is given. This word can also be translated "minister." Some argue that the deacons administrated the physical needs of the church because of the example of the six men selected in Acts 6:1-6. While the word "deacon" is used in vs. 1 ("ministry" or "distribution"), and the verb form is used in vs. 2, ("to serve") the noun form is also used in vs. 4 to refer to the apostles proclamation ("ministry of the word"). Therefore, we have no reason to believe that the usage of diakonia in Acts 6 is a technical usage, or that the ministry of the deacon is limited to administration.

We think of deacons as "under-shepherds" who were responsible for shepherding a smaller sphere of the local church or other tasks as assigned, while the elders were responsible for the overall leadership of the church. Deacons appear to be under the authority of the elders. This is evident from the fact that they are always mentioned after the elders, and also because the requirements for deacons are slightly less strict than for elders.

Gender

Deacons were both male and female. While some say the "women" in 1 Tim. 3:11 are deacons' wives, this seems very unlikely. If Paul was concerned that deacons' wives be dignified so as to avoid reproaching deacons, it is unimaginable that he would not make the same point to the wives of elders. In addition, in Rom. 16:1,2, Paul tells us that Phoebe was a "deaconess" of the church in Cenchrea, and that she held a position of considerable influence.

Differences From Elders

The qualifications for deacons are very similar to those for elders, but omit certain requirements which are expected of elders. Evidently, deacons could be very young Christians (there is no "not a new convert" requirement). However, they were still to be "tested" to ascertain that their character and service were genuine and consistent. They do not seem to need as much scriptural knowledge as the elders. They are to "hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience," which stresses obedience to what they know more than a sophisticated knowledge of the Word. They are not required to be able to "refute those who contradict" as were elders.

Qualifications for Deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-12)

The following qualifications are all of a subjective nature, and therefore must be understood as comparatively true for deacons, never as absolutely true. Also, we recognize that this is our particular interpretation, applicable to Xenos Fellowship. The English is taken from the NASB.

  1. Dignity. "Likewise" means the foregoing description regarding elders applies in principle. Dignity speaks of a respectable reputation especially in spiritual matters.
  2. Not double tongued means not insincere--not saying one thing to one and something different to another. Not a liar. Straight forward.
  3. Not addicted to much wine means no abuse or dependence on any drug--may include regular use of alcohol even though not getting drunk, if inappropriate dependence is demonstrated. There should be a demonstrated freedom not to drink.
  4. Not fond of sordid gain. Not willing to manipulate or resort to illegitimate means for personal gain, either for money or recognition, especially in the area of ministry. The person demonstrates a proper values system, including a willingness to give up money making opportunities for the sake of the gospel. This also implies that the deacon should be giving consistently and sacrificially of his/her money.
  5. Holding fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. "Holding fast" speaks of knowing the Word, and "clear conscience" speaks of doing the Word. This includes having a clear conscience with regard to the service being rendered to the church (i.e. sins of omission are also wrong).
  6. Tested first and beyond reproach. Deacons must have a proven ability to do the work of shepherding and service effectively and without any grounds of accusation. In other words, we don't decide that someone is a deacon, we recognize that someone already is a deacon.
  7. Not malicious gossips. They demonstrate care not to exaggerate or to abusively speak of others. This implies the ability to keep a secret where appropriate. If the failings of others are shared, it is only with those in a responsible position and for proper reasons.
  8. Temperate comes from a word meaning serious, not given to excess, self-controlled and emotionally stable.
  9. Faithful in all things indicates reliability. It implies that we don't have to worry when this person is given a job to do--the deacon will do his/her best.
  10. Husband of one wife. Literally a "one-woman man," this means specifically that there is at most one person of the other sex in the deacon's life. It means in principle that the deacon has his/her sexuality resolved and under control.
  11. One who manages his own household well. The primary application is to married men meaning that their family life is good. In the case of the unmarried, it means that they have close relationships and that those relationships are generally healthy and stable. A pattern of broken relationships suggests an inability to get along with others (especially your own family and friends) and disqualifies a would-be deacon

Book 2: The Mission and Function of the Church

The Commissioning of the Church

Teaching Goals

  1. The students should understand the mission of the church.
  2. The students should be able to evaluate structures and tactics designed to fulfill that mission.

Key Passages

The New Testament states the church's mission in several different ways. By looking at various formulations, we can gain a sense of the purpose of the church in God's program.

  • Jn. 20:21 "Jesus therefore said to them again, 'Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 
    Jesus calls attention to the nature of his own mission as a way of understanding the mission of the church. To be specific, we could look at Jesus' description of his intent in various places where he declared his own purpose:
  • Lk. 19:10 "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
  • Jn. 3:17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him."
  • Mk. 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
  • Mt. 28:18-20 "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, `All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." 
    This passage contains Christ's so-called "great commission" to the church. We notice that reaching the lost millions in the human race again figures prominently. The church is to go, not to wait for others to come. International missionary outreach is explicitly mentioned. 
    Notice that baptism is included, as well as "teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." In other words, part of the task of the church is to teach and disciple those we have reached with the gospel so that they have a healthy walk with God. This process is a natural part of a healthy evangelistic strategy, since those who have been discipled are in the best position to join in the task of reaching others.
  • 2 Cor. 5:15-20 "And He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and rose again on their behalf. . . Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." 
    In this passage, Paul once again draws the parallel between the mission of Christ and that of the church. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. . ." and "he has committed to us the word of reconciliation." The church is to take up the work of reaching those alienated from God (which is the cornerstone of reconciliation). However, our work doesn't stop there. We are to press the work of reconciliation forward in the area of bringing members close to God through enhancing their walk with him, teaching them how to worship him and how to gain victory over their own personal problems. Seen this way, reconciliation is both an event and a process.
  • Col. 2:19 "[Beware of those who come up with their own religion instead of] holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God." 
    Here Jesus is the head of the body of Christ. Our mission is to hold fast to him, receiving our directions and nourishment from him, often through the agency of other members (the "joints and ligaments"). Likewise, we, as joints and ligaments in our own right, are responsible to take of Christ and give it to others. This is describing how Christians depend on each other for ministry within the church. However, he also points out that the whole body "grows with a growth which is from God." In other words, as a living spiritual organism, the church is to grow like other living things. Here the ever-present importance of reaching out to those who do not know Christ is again evident.
  • Eph. 4:11 "And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until 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. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." 
    In this passage, we again see Paul's vision of the properly functioning body of Christ. Under the headship of Christ, not only are there leaders who equip other members (the saints) but the saints themselves do the "work of service." This work of service is the responsibility and opportunity of "every joint" and of "each individual part." In other words, the vision here is of a community where everyone has a role in being built up spiritually and building up others. The result is growth. Qualitative growth, or spiritual maturity among the members (we are no longer to be children tossed here and there) as well as overall growth through reaching the lost (the growth of the body).
  • 1 Pet. 2:9-10 "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." 
    In Peter's version of the commission of the church, the identity of the Christian community is stressed along with its mission. Its identity is that of the people of God. Its mission is to serve as a race of priest-kings who proclaim the excellencies of God. Some versions read "declare the praises of God" (NIV) which is not an accurate translation of the word arete ("virtues" or "excellencies"). 
    Question: What problematic implications arise from the NIV's translation here?
    Answer: The problem with this translation is that it implies that the church is merely commissioned to reflect the great things about God back to him. Instead, it is both to God and to our fellow people that we are to proclaim or publish the great things about God. This proclamation is in harmony with the other passages stressing the importance of outreach, as well as the context (vs. 12) in which Peter urges that because of our mission we should keep our "behavior excellent among the Gentiles" so they will glorify God.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some of the unfortunate forms of fallout when local churches stray from this central mission of the church?
  • What are some ways a local church can stray from this central mission?
  • How does a local church stay on track with this central mission?
  • If your church strayed from this central mission, what would you do?

Worship in the New Testament

Teaching Goals

  • To explain how worship in the New Testament is different from worship in the Old Testament.
  • To motivate people toward a lifestyle characterized by New Testament worship.

Introduction

It is common for churches to say that their first priority is the worship of God. This usually means that the corporate worship service on Sunday morning is the most important activity in which the church engages. Often, that worship service is liturgical - characterized by a set order of ritual, song, prayer, etc.

Is this what the New Testament teaches about worship?

A closer examination of the relevant biblical material affirms that worship is indeed the first priority of the church, but the New Testament defines worship in a very different way.

A Change in Sacrifices

Read 1 Pet. 2:5. This verse (along with vs. 9) teaches that all Christians are priests. Whereas in the Old Testament, only select Levites had this privilege, every Christian now has this privilege.

What do priests do?

In the Old Testament period, their main function was to carry out the worship of God through the offering of sacrifices. There were essentially two different kinds of sacrifices: sin offerings, which were offered for moral offenses, and thank offerings, which were offered to express gratitude for God's goodness and blessing.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament sin offerings through his death (Heb. 9:11-14; 10:1-14); therefore, we need never make such sacrifices to God again. But as Christians who have benefited from his sacrifice, we have the privilege to express our gratitude to God for Christ's work in many ways. Peter refers to this in 1 Pet. 2:5 when he says that we "offer up spiritual sacrifices to God." Peter does not specify here what these sacrifices are, except that they are spiritual, not physical.

By studying other passages in the New Testament, however, we discover several different "sacrifices" by which the Christian may worship God. It is important to note that no one way is viewed as more spiritual than the others; all are important if we want to have full-orbed spiritual lives. 

Discussion Question: Do you think we can go so far as to say that churches who practice a liturgy are wrong on that point?

Different Ways to Worship

Offer God Your Whole Self

  • "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, well-pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." (Rom. 12:1)
  • When an Israelite had received a blessing from God, he could have a priest offer up an animal as a "whole burnt offering" to show God his gratitude. God was pleased by this costly sacrifice, and expressed this by calling it a "soothing aroma." (see Lev. 3:5,16)
  • Paul says that as Christians, we have received the mercies of God through Christ's work - a gift so fantastic that he spent the previous eleven chapters of this letter describing it. How can we say "Thank you!" to God for such a fantastic gift? Not by offering an animal, but by presenting to God something much more precious--our very selves. We can "sign over the title deed" of our lives and say "God, I want the rest of my life and every part of my being to be one long expression of my gratitude for the gift that you have given me."
  • We may think that this sacrifice is not very great because we have so many problems and faults, but God says that it is "holy" and "well-pleasing" to him! Notice that according to Paul, this sacrifice is our "spiritual service of worship."
  • The Greek word for "service of worship" is the word from which we get the term liturgy. Paul is saying that the elaborate worship service enacted by the Old Testament priests no longer has a place in Christian worship; it is now replaced by this very personal sacrifice.
  • Ask the group: What are some lines of thinking which oppose a person's movement toward offering his or her whole self to God?

Offer God Your Praise

  • "Through Christ then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of the lips that give thanks to his name." (Heb. 13:15)
  • Here is another spiritual sacrifice which pleases God--praising him and thanking him for all that he is and all that he does for us. The practice of thankfulness to God is stressed over and over again in the New Testament (see 1 Thess. 5:16-18; Col. 3:15-17). Why is this? Does God need our gratitude so that he can feel good about himself?
  • Such a view obviously does not befit the God of the Bible--he is the only being in the universe who is completely self-existent and therefore needs nothing. We add nothing to God by praising and thanking him. God is indeed pleased by our gratitude, but the ones who benefit from this practice are us!
  • As we choose (often against our present feelings and circumstances) to recall God's blessings and then to thank him for these, we are keeping ourselves properly aligned with reality. Rather than buying into the lie that we are mistreated and unfortunate, we are by faith asserting the truth--that we are fantastically blessed beyond anything that we could ever deserve! In spite of our rebellion against God which deserves his wrath, he has forgiven us, adopted us into his family, guaranteed us eternal life, given us a significant role in his purpose, indwelt us with his Spirit, provided us with Christian friends-- and the list goes on and on.
  • The author's emphasis here is that we should worship God in this way "continually." The idea that Christian worship takes place only (or especially) in a corporate worship meeting is utterly foreign to this verse. Because of Christ's payment for our sins, we have the privilege to draw near to God and communicate to him in this way at any time: in the morning when we wake up, on the way to work, during the busy day, when we are together with other Christians, alone in our room, etc.
  • It is wonderful to praise God with other Christians in song (Eph. 5:19), but this should be only the "tip of the iceberg" of our thanks to God.
  • Ask the group: What do you think erodes thankfulness in Christians? What do you think promotes thankfulness in Christians?

Offer God Your Material Resources

  • "And let us not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (Heb. 13:16)
  • The author touches on two more ways in which we can worship God: doing good and sharing. "Sharing" probably refers to the generous giving of our material resources to God's people and God's work. This is explicitly identified by Paul as a sacrifice which pleases God: "But I have received (your money gift) in full, and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God." (Phil. 4:18)
  • Many Christians regard giving financially to God in the same way that they pay their taxes to the I.R.S. - they have to do it, and they look for ways to give as little as possible. Paul's view is very different from this. He says that giving is a privilege (2 Cor. 8:4) and something that we should do generously (2 Cor. 9:6), as an expression of our commitment to God (2 Cor. 8:5).
  • When we give our money to God in this way by supporting our local church, other Christian workers and ministries, and helping the needy, God regards this as an expression of worship fully as spiritual as praising him. This is because giving of our money represents a giving of ourselves, since money represents the time and effort and creativity that we have invested in order to gain it. Such giving is also an expression of our trust in God's faithfulness to continue to meet our material needs--which Paul tells us God will fully supply (Phil. 4:19).
  • Ask the group: How can a Christian make the transition in his or her thinking from the "I.R.S." outlook on giving to the "privilege" outlook on giving?

Offer God Your Service to Others

  • "And let us not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (Heb. 13:16)
  • The other sacrifice mentioned in this verse is "doing good." This phrase refers to ministry--performing deeds of loving service to other people as representatives of Christ. When we relate to the people God brings into our lives with Christ-like, sacrificial love, God regards this as an expression of our worship to him. " . . . walk in love, just as Christ loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice as a fragrant aroma."
  • God is pleased by this kind of life-style not only because he wants to love people through us, but also because this demonstrates that we are living with an attitude of trust in his love for us. We are motivated to love others because we understand and believe in the love that God has for us (1 Jn. 4:16-19).
  • Every day, God gives us dozens of creative opportunities to say "thank you!" to him in this way-- serving our spouses, caring for our children, performing deeds of service for those in need, showing and sharing the love of Christ to our neighbors, those at work or school--the examples are endless.
  • We also have the special privilege of worshiping God through the exercise of our spiritual gifts. Paul speaks of his own apostolic ministry in this way: " . . . because of the grace that was given to me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." (Rom. 15:15,16)
  • After urging us to present our lives to God as an act of worship in Rom. 12:1, Paul goes on to urge us to express that worship through the use of our spiritual gifts (vs. 6-8). As we discover our spiritual gifts and exercise them regularly in the service of others, and give God praise for the fruit of this ministry, we discover a form of worship that is uniquely satisfying!
  • Ask the group: What differences do you think it would make for you when facing situations (mentioned in the previous sentence) that you consciously thought about serving the Lord himself via serving this person?
    (Responses might include: less fear, more boldness, more respect, more energy and resolve, deeper care about what you're doing, etc.)

Discussion Questions

What if we emphasize one form of worship to the virtual exclusion of another? Consider the different mixes of exclusions, the possible motives behind each mix, and the possible outcomes of each.

Prior to this study, which of these forms of worship did you understand the least and why? Which do you think is your strongest/weakest? Why?


Conclusion

It should be clear from this study that worship in the New Testament is a lifestyle made up of many kinds of activity, not necessarily a corporate meeting.

Why is this so important? When Christians view worship as the most important priority (which is correct) but have a superficial view of what worship is, the result is often a superficial and dichotomized Christian life. Such Christians are faithfully committed to attending the Sunday worship service, but because they view that as the essence of worship, fail to develop a lifestyle of whole- hearted commitment to God, thankfulness, financial stewardship and ministry. God is more pleased and we are more fulfilled when we develop lifestyles characterized by the full-orbed worship described in the New Testament.

See Also: "What is Worship?" an essay by Lee Campbell, PhD.

Evangelism in the Local Church

Teaching Goals

  • The students will be familiar with the main ways that evangelism can be done in Xenos Fellowship.
  • The students will be motivated to take part in the evangelistic task.

Introduction

As we have seen in the commissioning of the church, effective evangelism is God's will for the church. How should we fulfill this commission? We need three elements in a successful evangelistic ministry:

  1. A plan for proclaiming or sharing the gospel with non-Christians, and people willing and able to implement that plan.
  2. A prayer ministry that opens doors for the gospel and renders people receptive in spite of Satanic opposition.
  3. A community into which we can bring those who are interested in the message. In an evangelistic community, non-Christians see the gospel being lived out by Christians, and have the opportunity to have their questions answered by more learned members if they so desire. They also are in position to begin to learn the basics of Christianity once they make the decision to receive Christ.

A Plan For Evangelism

Although there are a wide variety of evangelistic methods available, the people in a local church must select the evangelistic strategies that are most suitable and effective in the context of their community. The following evangelistic concepts represent some of the stratagems preferred at Xenos Fellowship. All are evident in Scripture. Included under each biblical principle are suggestions for effective implementation.


Friendship evangelism

Evangelism occurs most easily within existing relationships, rather than by talking to strangers. Since we usually already have credibility with our friends and family members, they are more likely to take the gospel seriously. Because of identification with friends, it is easier for the non- Christian to envision him/herself becoming a Christian. Also, the skills involved in effective friendship evangelism are much more common than those needed for cold-contact evangelism.

Scripture gives examples of this principle. See Jn. 1:41-51, Acts 16:30-34, and 1 Pet. 3:1,2.

Application: Those of us who have non-Christian friends or relatives should be aware of the opportunity that we have to reach these friends and loved ones for Christ. Part of our motivation for sharing the gospel with others is the vision of seeing our friends find Christ and grow spiritually. 

We should ask for prayer support from Christian friends in reaching these people. Then, we should patiently and carefully endeavor to share the grace of God with them. If we are unsure about how to bring the subject up, or what to say, we should ask older Christians for help in these areas. Likewise if we encounter resistance or other difficulties, we should not hesitate to ask for ideas from older Christian friends.

Discussion Question: In the case of those of us who do not currently have friends or relatives who might be responsive to the gospel, in what ways can we still be directly involved in friendship evangelism?

Answers

  • We can continue to maintain and foster a convinced outlook that outreach is right, and that it is important. This consensus is a vital part of the motivating, healthy environment needed to encourage evangelism in others.
  • We can pray for non-Christians by name (see below).
  • We can spend time with non-Christians trying to make friends, showing them the love of Christ in various ways. Christians need to be willing to socialize with non-Christians. This is directly implied in Christ's command that we not only "love them that love us"(Mt. 5:46,47).
  • We may be able to help those who have friends investigating Christianity by advising them, encouraging them, or joining them with their friends.

Acquaintance evangelism

We can also share the gospel in relationships that are relatively more distant, or even non-existent. Neighbors and associates at work or in sports or civic groups all may be interested in spiritual things. The Bible is clear that God will give us opportunities to share our faith and will create need in those people with whom we talk. However, it is usually more difficult to do this kind of outreach, and it requires more patience. A good beginning point therefore, would be to approach God on this issue.

It would be a mistake to think that God will honor a passive attitude in this area, or that he will bring about evangelism apart from human agency. Some theologians believe that it is not up to us to worry about evangelism, and that evangelism will naturally occur if we just focus on growing with God. This perspective, which has been called "Search Theology" is not found in Scripture, and it has been discredited over and over again in dead churches that have lost their ability to reach the lost.

Instead, we believe that the church should engage in intentional efforts to win lost people, and constantly study ways to become more effective in those efforts.


Cold contact evangelism

People who are regularly successful sharing the gospel with complete strangers are manifesting the spiritual gift of evangelism. For most people this is not the best approach to evangelism. However, for those gifted to do so, cold contact is a viable and important way to win lost people to Christ.


Discussion

Concerning these three settings of evangelism--friendship, acquaintance, and cold-- which are you most drawn to and least drawn to using as an approach to doing evangelism? Explain why. Which of these approaches was used when you were saved?

Evangelism and Cultural Identification

Read 1 Cor. 9:19-22. The evangelistic principle here for us to imitate (see 1 Cor. 10:32-11:1) is the principle of cultural identification: Without compromising in moral and/or doctrinal areas, we are to identify as much as possible with the non-Christian culture we are seeking to reach.

"though not myself..." (vs 20,21) - Paul is under grace and living within biblical moral absolutes. In the area of doctrine and morality, we are not to compromise or else we lose what we have to offer to non- Christians.

"to the Jew I became as a Jew . . . to those under the Law, as under the Law . . . to those who are without law, as without law . . . to the weak I became weak . . . I have become all things to all men" - Paul meets people on their level culturally. When with Jews, he observed their dietary restrictions (wouldn't order bacon with his eggs). When with pagans, he went naked in the gymnasiums, quoted their authors, etc.

Why is this principle so important? The language of this text makes it clear that the observance of this principle is very important in reaching people for Christ (" . . . that I might win . . . "). When we identify with our audience's culture, more people will be reached for Christ.

If the gospel is really true and really universally applicable, why can't we simply get a tract in every mailbox, a Bible in every house and say that we have evangelized people effectively?

The answer to this should be obvious to all of us. People will not receive a message which they do not perceive to be relevant to their own lives.

People tend to view themselves primarily in terms of their own personal experiences and cultural heritage. Therefore, in order to be perceived as meaningful and relevant, the gospel must be communicated in a way with which the non-Christian can identify culturally. Non Christians can't "hear" the gospel effectively otherwise because of the "noise" of our different culture. This is why missiologists remind us that people like to be able to become Christians without having to cross cultural boundaries.

Discussion Question: How many of you were brought to Christ by someone with whom you could identify personally and culturally? How big of a factor would you say this was?

Along with the message of grace, this is a key evangelistic principle. In fact, it is an expression of the message of grace. Just as we do not make people change morally before they can come to Christ, so we don't insist that they change culturally in order to come to Christ. Christ himself is our example for this principle. He definitely "changed cultures" to reach man! Out of love, the Christian should make the effort necessary to do just this.

But there is an unconscious tendency for Christians to identify Christianity with their own personal cultural tastes and thus to drift into a cultural "ghetto" that needlessly alienates non-Christians from Christ. When this is the case, Christians often misinterpret non-Christians' distaste for their cultural tastes as "hardness to the gospel." The resultant perspective is sometimes called a "fortress" mentality.

Christians sit safely inside the walls of their church and church culture, judging the non-Christian world for its "worldliness" and hardness of heart. When this happens, the message of the gospel becomes effectively sealed off from all but those who happen to identify with the "Christian" culture. And, tragically, Christianity is not seen as the personally and culturally relevant world-view that it is, but instead as an irrelevant anachronism.

For this reason, church structures and strategies must be formulated in a way which not only promote true spirituality, but also cultural identification with the society to be reached. This has been a key distinctive of Xenos through the years, and accounts for a large measure of our evangelistic success.


Discussion

What are some examples of the application of this principle at Xenos? 

Central Teachings (Seeker-Sensitive Meetings)

Xenos calls its large meetings (in place since 1976) "Central Teachings" because we began as a collection of home churches. The teachings we shared were centralized, unlike the rest of our activities.

The purpose of the Seekers' meetings is to provide the non-Christian with a "safe place to hear a dangerous message." Every aspect of the meeting has been designed with the unchurched seeker in mind. The atmosphere is casual and unchurchy. The dress is also casual. The meeting is large enough for the unchurched person to feel safely anonymous while he investigates. The musical style and content is selected to impact the seeker rather than to promote corporate worship for the Christian attenders. Other modern media (such as computer graphics) are used to communicate the relevance of Christianity to modern unchurched people.

The teachings are filled with contemporary language and examples; theological words are explained and we avoid "Christianese." We use a contemporary version of the Bible. Collections of money are announced with a specific disclaimer to the seeker that he should not feel obligated to give. 

Parties

One of the main purposes for parties is to give non-Christian friends the opportunity to discover that Christians in Xenos are culturally and personally relevant people. Sometimes, the non- Christians may drink too much or become rowdy, but we feel that parties are still an effective way of communicating the cultural "common ground" that we share with non-Christians, and therefore open up additional opportunities to discuss Christianity. 

Attending Bars and Non-Christian Parties

When Jesus was invited to parties held by "sinners," he accepted. He evidently did this so much that he became liable to the erroneous charge that he was a "wine-bibber and a glutton" (Mt. 11:19). When he was rebuked by religious people for this practice, he defended himself by reminding them that he "did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mt. 9:13).

Jesus loved lost people enough to identify with them culturally in this setting. Christians have this same privilege and responsibility (although some may not have the self-control to handle these settings).

Taking in Non-Christian Movies, Books, Music, etc.

Media is a powerful expression of culture. Therefore, those who wish to reach non-Christian people do well to understand the media of that culture. It is evident that Paul read Greek and Roman literature because he quotes it many times in his speeches and letters. By demonstrating an awareness of non-Christian books, movies and music, we open doors of receptivity to the message of Christ.

Some object to this practice by saying that non-Christian media contains false and immoral content. Of course, this is true. However, the Christian is equipped with the Word of God with which to discern truth from error. If his motivation is to more effectively reach non-Christians for Christ, he should be applauded rather than judged.

Discussion

Did any of the above four factors play into your own salvation, or someone else's that you know? If so, explain how.

Some Christians can communicate a very clear, crisp explanation of the gospel message, but are really lacking in the cultural identification department. Other Christians can relate beautifully with the culture, but often find themselves tongue-tied, shy, or they let golden opportunities float by to explain Christ to the non-Christian. Some Christians are pretty good at both or neither of these elements. Which of these most characterizes you these days?

The Evangelistic Prayer Ministry of the Church

The Bible teaches that spiritual ministry can only be accomplished through the power of God. (Psalms 127:1,2) God's power is released into ministry situations through prayer, as the following passages demonstrate. Not only did the apostles feel the need to have their own ministries supported by prayer, they sought to accomplish ministry in others through prayer.

  • Eph. 6:18,19 "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel."
  • 2 Thess. 3:1 "Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as {it did} also with you"
  • Heb. 13:18 "Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things."
  • Col. 1:9 "For this reason also, since the day we heard {of it}, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding."

Groups that persistently pray for evangelism, and who pray for non-Christians by name will eventually receive answers to their prayers. Groups that feel no need to pray for evangelism eventually lose their ability to do evangelism. This is either because they tend to rely on human will power through pressure tactics, or they become demoralized and turn to other endeavors.


Discussion

Have the group describe how these things have been true in their experience or observation.

The Evangelistic Community

In Jn. 13:34,35 and Jn. 17:21,23, Jesus stated that the unity and love Christians express to each other is compelling evidence of the truthfulness of Christianity. Since this evidence is more subjective than objective, it has to be felt and seen, rather than explained. The atmosphere produced by a group of Christians who love each other will often do a great deal to convince the non- Christian to respond to Christ especially initially.

A scriptural example of this is Andrew (Jn. 1:40- 51; Jn. 12:20-26). Andrew brought many to Christ by asking them to investigate Christ for themselves. See also 1 Cor. 14:23-25 which contemplates the non-Christian entering the Christian meeting, and there realizing that "God is certainly among you." 

Access to a dynamic group that is truly practicing Christian love is an important aid in the evangelistic task. There are several reasons this is true.


Discussion

Have individual group members read each of the following 8 points aloud. When finished, open the floor to their reactions about what they just read.

  • We may only get 5 or 10 minutes at work or school to try to explain the gospel, which is difficult--though the results can be surprisingly effective. But such a small amount of time is often not as effective as a full-length, well-reasoned teaching given by a gifted communicator.
  • There are varieties of gifts in the church, and one who is trying to share the gospel should look for opportunities to derive help from other gifted people. If we can bring our friends into contact with gifted communicators, they may find answers to their questions more easily.
  • A person who has attended a series of Bible teachings while deciding whether to become a Christian is in an excellent position to become involved in fellowship without major changes in schedule.
  • A person who is cynical, or very cognitively oriented, or who is afraid of being cornered by a small group of people, should be invited to a Seekers' meeting. There, there won't be a lot of Christian activities which might be offensive. There is also more anonymity at the large meeting, so there is less tendency to feel "on the spot."
  • Church growth experts state that the attitude of the members is the single most important factor in determining a church's ability to grow. When members in a local church are enthusiastic about what God is doing through the church, guests sense this and are attracted.
  • Attending a Seeker's meeting or an outreach-oriented home fellowship ministry allows a new person the time needed to make big decisions like whether to follow Christ. It is usually a mistake to try to move people from dim awareness of the gospel to a decision to receive Christ in one step. Rather, we are trying to help others to come to an informed, free- will decision to receive Christ. Such a sincere decision may take time and, from our side, patience. When the need for time is disregarded, people are usually either needlessly scared off, or they make insincere decisions based on the desire to please others. These decisions usually do not last. See Paul's application of this principle in Acts 17:1-4.
  • The central message of Christianity (that salvation is a free gift and that one can have a personal relationship with Christ), has the ability to profoundly affect people on a spiritual level. The Holy Spirit works in cooperation with this message to convict the hearer of its truthfulness and of their need for Christ. This is why Paul said that he was careful to stay focused on declaring this message ("I determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." 1 Cor. 2:1-5). The effective evangelist trusts the power of this message and knows that it will impact the hearer, regardless of the hearer's initial, visible response.
  • In the evangelistic community, the Word of God is taught clearly, and non-Christian guests can be expected to be influenced more and more as they listen to the truth.
  • When we are communicating with a non-Christian friend, we need to not only speak, but also listen. Attending fellowship meetings is a good place to spend time trying to truly understand the view of the other person. The more leisurely setting after teachings is a good opportunity for this kind of conversation.

Recommended Reading Relevant to Evangelism

  1. Discovering God, McCallum
  2. The Universe Next Door, Sire
  3. Say It With Love, Hendricks
  4. Out of the Salt Shaker and Into the World, Pippert
  5. Evidence That Demands a Verdict, McDowell
  6. To Tell the Truth, Metzger
  7. Winning Ways, Eims
  8. Lifestyle Evangelism, Aldrich
  9. The Death of Truth, McCallum, et. al.

Koinonia

What is koinonia?

The early Christians "continuously devoted themselves to fellowship." (Acts 2:42) The word for "fellowship" is koinonia, which means "to have in common" or "to share." As those who are united with Christ, we are to share the life of Christ with one another in a way that results in individual and corporate spiritual growth. This is accomplished through the exchange of God's love and truth, which is called "ministry" (which simply means "service").

Koinonia is viewed by the New Testament as a non-optional environment for spiritual growth.

Clearly such koinonia is not just a matter of attending one or two meetings a week. It is much more than that. This is why the verse so often used to stress the importance of attending church (Hebrews 10:25 ". . .not forsaking the assembling together as is the habit of some. . ."), is frequently misunderstood today. This verse is often taken to mean that only our presence at church meetings is necessary. Instead, we find that according to 1 Cor. 12:21 (". . .the eye cannot say to the hand, `I have no need of you'. . ."), it is not just the presence of the other members that we need, but also their function.

Christians are viewed as the body of Christ because we are spiritually united with Christ and with each other. Since we are members of one another, we need to relate to each other in a mutually interdependent way. The important point, therefore, is not just that we attend meetings (although this is a necessary aspect), but that we authentically share the life of Christ with one another. Thus, ". . . speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Eph. 4:15,16).


How can we practice koinonia?

The New Testament defines normative involvement in Christian koinonia in two major ways. One way is by serving other Christians with our spiritual gifts and receiving others' service through their spiritual gifts. The sphere in which we use our gifts is our ministry, or service.

Another, and perhaps more basic way to practice koinonia is through loving one another in various practical ways. In Jn. 13:34,35, Jesus told his disciples that they were to "love one another as I have loved you." Since they had been with Jesus for several years, they knew how he expressed love to them. Since other Christians would not have this opportunity, the apostles carefully described what this love looks like. Through what are sometimes called the "one another" imperatives of the epistles, we are given a profile of the ways that we can love one another. Below are examples:

  • Encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 3:13; 10:25)
  • Admonish one another (Col. 3:16; Rom. 15:14)
  • Confess your sins to one another (Jas. 5:16)
  • Forgive one another (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13)
  • Accept one another (Rom. 14:1; 15:7)
  • Serve one another (Gal. 5:13; Rom. 12:10)
  • Build up one another (1 Thess. 5:11)
  • Be hospitable to one another (1 Pet. 4:9)

As we practice giving love to other Christians in these ways, and as we allow them to express love to us in these ways, we are practicing koinonia and expressing mutual interdependence as members of Christ and one another.

Christian meetings are important in this regard because they enable us to experience koinonia during the meeting in varying degrees. They also facilitate the meeting of other Christians with whom we can build koinonia-based friendships. New Testament churches commonly met in homes as well as in large groups (see Acts 2:46; 20:20; Rom. 16:5).

The reason for this was probably so that the Christians could more easily practice this kind of koinonia. Xenos has always emphasized the importance of home groups for this reason. In the context of a home group and the relationships which develop between members, a level of koinonia can occur which is impossible by attending only larger meetings.

Leaders as Equippers

Read Eph. 4:11,12. "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ"

There are two very different interpretations of this passage which lead to two very different answers to the role of leaders in the local church.

The King James Version places a comma between "saints" and "for" in vs. 12. thus suggesting that the leaders do three things:

  • equip the saints
  • the work of ministry
  • build up the body of Christ.

In other words, the leaders do all significant spiritual work and the rest do very little. The King James Version reflected this view which had been held for centuries and reinforced it for succeeding generations. Even today, this is the prominent view of leadership's role in the church.

Consider the following quotes by leaders and theologians:

  • ". . .both the clergy and the laity have leadership roles, but they are different roles. The clergy are primarily responsible for the assembled phase of the church life. They are called and trained as professionals to preach, to lead worship, to educate. . ., to provide. . .theological counsel, and to lead the congregation's organizational and fellowship life. . ."
  • "Lay leadership in these areas is important, but it is secondary and supportive."
  • "(A corporate executive who) realizes that it is the Holy Spirit who has made him head of the research division in a large corporation."
  • "(The hospital elevator operator) who exercises his ministry by humming a hymn by taking the patient's up to the operating room." (All from Wentz, Ministry As a Way of Life)

Without the comma, everything changes. The leaders equip the believers to do the work of ministry and they build up the body of Christ. In other words, all Christians are ministers with significant spiritual roles to play.

The leaders' primary job is not to do it all, but to equip the "laymen" to minister. They are train them in doctrine and ministry, help them to find their unique ministry roles, provide structures in which they can play these role - and then let them minister!!

Which interpretation is correct?

Without any doubt, the latter is the correct interpretation. For what are the saints being equipped, if not to do the work of ministry?

Vs. 7,8 make it clear that every Christian is spiritually gifted. Such gifting is given in order to perform spiritual ministry (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

Vs. 16 sums up the teaching of this passage by saying that the church is built up by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part.

Many other passages in the New Testament teach that all Christians are gifted and called to ministry (cf. Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; 1 Pet 4:10,11).

This is one of the crucial distinctives of Xenos. The spiritual fruitfulness and vitality that we enjoy is due in large part to the fact that the leadership is committed to equipping the people for effective needed and often sophisticated ministry. Not only does far more spiritual work get done when everyone does it, but people are far more spiritually healthy when they are ministering.


Discussion

  • Has anyone ever been in a church where no effort was made to equip people for ministry? What was that like, compared to a church where this is a goal?
  • What happens to Christians who don't understand they are supposed to minister?

Discipleship in the Local Church

If we have any hope of recovering the New Testament picture of the church, we will need to recover personal mentoring from the ash heap of history. Some signs look good, especially in non-western churches. In the west, we just have too many important things to do. We can’t find time for meeting with younger Christians to build love relationships and to train them in the word, character development, and how to build a personal ministry. [Barna gives convincing evidence that intentional discipleship is in eclipse in modern America. George Barna, Growing True Disciples, (Ventura, CA: Issachar Resources, 2000), Chapter 3, “The State of Discipleship.”]

We know Jesus did it. We know Paul was let down over the wall in Damascus by “his disciples” (Acts 9:25). We know he told Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). We know most churches in New Testament times probably didn’t have classes, and that classes are inadequate for forming character and ministry skills in young believers. We know there were no theological schools like seminaries in the first century, and therefore the New Testament church must have raised up virtually all leaders through personal discipleship. So the biblical case for personal mentoring is strong.

Widespread personal disciple making was lost during the rise of the clergy in the second and third centuries for the most part and has only occasionally been practiced since, usually with excellent results. But just when interest in making disciples was rising in America during the Jesus movement, the “shepherding movement” left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth and set discipleship back dramatically.1 Today, interest is again rising.

Personal mentoring brings qualities to the equipping process that no class can bring. I meet with a number of young men every week, and these are the best times of my week. These times are when I feel God working through me intensely as I come to grips with real issues in people’s lives. Most of our meetings are two hours or so. We have time to share what’s happening in our lives, study together, and pray. If I had to cut things from my schedule, these “hang-outs” would be the very last thing to go. Even more importantly, each of these young men meets with other young men to do the same thing. I believe the most important thing I can do for our church is to deliver high quality leaders for their future.

When a church gets the vision for making real disciples, the future looks good. By gradually spreading the practice across the church, such groups can anticipate a future with scores and eventually hundreds or even thousands of trained, competent Christian workers. All of them will be looking for opportunities to serve. Multiplication becomes possible.

Multiplication happens when, instead of just adding people to the church, each member seeks out people she can win and disciple. As individuals duplicate themselves, groups tend to multiply. The church grows, and not just in numbers; qualitative growth matches quantitative growth. This concept is as good today as it ever was and has tremendous potential to raise up large numbers of quality Christian workers.

I know Christians who don’t share this vision for personal disciple making, and I feel sorry for them. They’re going to miss the lifelong joy that comes from cultivating such friendships with young Christians and the eternal rewards that come with it.

The Process

For detailed information on how to make disciples I recommend people read our book on the subject, Organic Discipleship.2 The basics of making disciples include: building a quality friendship; gaining and imparting vision; teaching what the Bible says and how to interpret it; and teaching and modeling prayer, fellowship, and how to build a personal ministry. Helping disciples gain victory over personal sin problems and build godly character is the most difficult part—especially when we include sins of omission, attitude problems, self-absorption, and relational problems. We may need to confront issues at times in loving discipline.

If your disciple matures and wins a ministry, especially winning another disciple, coaching begins. Here you monitor your person’s thinking and actions when he’s working with others, helping him to ask the right questions, read situations, and measure his words. In churches where home groups duplicate themselves, you will likely see your disciples begin leading their own groups. By guiding new leaders through the first year or so of leading a group, you can significantly shorten the learning curve.

To begin with a self-centered, carnally-minded believer and end with a self-feeding, stable, relationally healthy minister for God is a several year project—if things go well. A significant percentage of people we try to disciple will never make it. But God put us here to give our lives away in real Christian love. If we adopt a ministry philosophy in harmony with that, he will bless us with eventual success. Of course, if you have some authentically mature believers to work with, the time could be shortened considerably.

The Harvest of Discipleship

In a church where people buy into personal disciple making, you can anticipate several good changes:
First, people realize that disciple making is a meaningful ministry where God might use any serious Christian. Instead of feeling clueless about how they could affect the kingdom of God in a lasting and powerful way, people dare to consider the possibility that even they could be used by God for something important. Delivering even one replicating disciple is equivalent to a lifetime of work. Instead of one servant of God, there are now two.

When disciple making succeeds, people experience changes that are deep and lasting. Most discipling relationships lasting several years are close enough to reveal people’s real underlying needs in a way no other ministry could. When two believers dare to build a close relationship before God and his word, things come out. The life-changing power of love and truth come into operation. When Paul taught that we can “speak the truth in love” to one another, resulting in spiritual growth and maturity, this is the kind of thing he had in mind. Disciple making can release the church from the deadening task of baby-sitting to move on to real service.

As the number of people being discipled and making disciples increases, the disciple making church will see an end to people’s sense of disconnection. People engaged in relationships at this level feel love in the church—something many in modern western churches do not now experience.

Under a proper model of disciple making, people stop seeing spiritual growth as primarily an inward thing benefiting themselves. They realize that God gives us life change so we can give ourselves out to others. Healthy disciples begin seeking opportunities to minister. Can you imagine what a church full of people like this would be like? A community where most people were looking for an opportunity to love and serve others? Anyone entering a group like that would soon realize this is no ordinary group of people. The whole church would seem warm, welcoming, and eager to relate.

Discipling churches have no shortage of volunteers, good giving, and consistent efforts at personal evangelism. As discipleship networks spontaneously form and expand, people enjoy being with each other, following up on how things have developed. This is different from churches where people feel relatively distant from others in the group.

A discipling church is a wonderful church. But none of this is easy. Only years of patient teaching, modeling, prayer, and pleading will have any chance of establishing a disciple-making ethos in a group, whether the group is large or small. To be fair, discipling groups also have conflict and friction at times because of the closeness in relationships. But that’s all part of the picture God would have us pursue.

If this is not a part of your church, start with yourself. Find a person or two to befriend and mentor. As you and your friends share the benefits, you may find a few others who will work with you on the project, including finding their own people to mentor. It has to spread gradually through the church; you can’t impose this church-wide and expect people to understand. Authors Bill Hull and Greg Ogden have written excellent books on working disciple making into existing, more traditional churches.3 Why not read those books and make a plan for introducing disciple making into your church?


Footnotes

1. The Shepherding movement grew out of a group centered in Pensacola Florida, and spread nationwide during the 1970s. They taught that you need a discipler, or “shepherd” whom you obey in all areas of life. They theorized that by learning to obey a human shepherd, you would learn to obey God. Their mistaken understanding led to authoritarianism and spiritual abuse. The movement was stamped out of existence by the rest of the church in America during the ‘80s.

2. Dennis McCallum and Jessica Lowery, Organic Discipleship: Mentoring others into maturity and spiritual leadership, (Houston: Touch Publications, 2006). You should also read Robert Coleman, Master Plan of Evangelism. (Revell, 2006). Coleman is unexcelled for vision and theory. Our book starts where his leaves off with practical ideas.

3. Bill Hull, The Disciple Making Pastor, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Co., 1988), and The Disciple-Making Church, (Revell: 1998). Greg Ogden, Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003).

Ministry to the Social and Physical Needs of Our Society

Orientation

Although, as we saw earlier, the church is not intended to take over the state, or to see itself as the state, this does not mean that the church need not be concerned with socio-economic conditions in our society. In fact, the Bible lays special responsibility on the people of God, including the New Testament church, to watch out for the disadvantaged members of society. We will look briefly at two aspects of this area of biblical teaching:

  1. The biblical mandate for social ministry
  2. The strategic outlook of Xenos for dealing with this task

The biblical mandate for social relief ministry

The ethics of generosity in helping the poor is rooted in the person and work of Christ himself according to 2 Cor. 8:9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." This example of Christ's should lead us to see our responsibility to use the wealth God has entrusted to us to glorify him by sharing with the poor.

John draws the connection this way: "We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (1 Jn. 3:16-19) Christ's love should move us to compassion for those who are suffering from poverty.

Jesus agreed that caring for the physical needs of others is an essential part of what it means to love others as we love ourselves in the parable of the good Samaritan. (Lk. 10:25-37)

We are all made in the image of God, and it should pain us that there is gross inequality. When Paul led relief efforts for the poor believers in Judea, he reasoned with the Corinthians that they should give generously to the effort because, "this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality--at this present time your abundance being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want, that there may be equality; as it is written, `He who {gathered} much did not have too much, and he who {gathered} little had no lack.'" (2 Cor. 8:13-15) Of course, the ideal is not that all Christians become poor so that there will be equality.

Rather, the ideal is that the poor become more prosperous so that their needs are met.

Jesus taught caring for the poor in very strong terms when he described this scene at the last judgment:

"Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me {something} to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, `Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe you? And when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.'" (Mt. 25:34-40)

Paul makes it clear that we should also prioritize the needs of Christian poor, without neglecting non-Christian poor. (Gal. 6:10) However, this support of the poor is for those who are victims of tragedy, or who are disadvantaged, or not able to work. It is not for those who are unwilling to work. (2 Thess. 3:6- 10)

Finally, the extent to which we go in helping the disadvantaged is a matter of private conscience. It is not to be legislated by the church. This can be seen from Paul's comments in 2 Cor. 9:7 "Let each do just as he has purposed in his own heart. . . not under compulsion. . ."

Discussion

The book of Proverbs has some striking promises and warnings in the area of caring for the poor. It may be appropriate to go around the room, each reading one of the following proverbs, and the group summarizing what the verse teaches, or what the application(s) is.

  • Prov. 13:23 "Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor, but it is swept away by injustice."
  • Prov. 14:21 "He who despises his neighbor sins, But happy is he who is gracious to the poor."
  • Prov. 14:31 "He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors him."
  • Prov. 19:17 "He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, And he will repay him for his good deed."
  • Prov. 21:13 "He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be answered."
  • Prov. 22:9 "He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor."
  • Prov. 28:27 "He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses."
  • Prov. 29:7 "The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor; the wicked does not understand such concern."

Xenos' strategy for dealing with social relief ministry

At Xenos, we believe that the church needs to carry out the biblical mandate outlined above to the extent we are able, based on a carefully thought-out community development strategy. Our social relief ministry, Urban Concern follows these principles:

  1. We should devote the vast majority of our resources to projects that effect permanent socio-economic as well as spiritual change. In other words, we want to impact families and communities with money, help, and the gospel in a way that is self-sustaining over decades, not merely feed hungry people in a way that is soon forgotten in an endless sea of need. Many social problems have spiritual and moral causes which need to be addressed at the same time that we meet immediate need. Any immediate needs that we meet should be a part of an over all strategy to effect permanent change within a specified community.
  2. We should devote more resources to meeting need in foreign countries where poverty is much worse than in the United States. This part of our strategy must be worked out in conjunction with the imperatives in the area of world missionary outreach mentioned earlier.
  3. We should accept limitations in the size of the area and the number of people we help for the sake of effecting real change. This means that we are obligated to say "No" to many worth-while projects in order to avoid diluting our impact in chosen communities.

Discussion

Ask the group if they agree with the above three points, and if they understand the thinking behind each. Are there any exceptions to these points?

Book 3: Structure and Strategy in the Local Church

Teaching goals

In this section, we hope to gain the following understanding.

  • Students will understand how the church can create and adapt structures and strategies to do its work, without violating the intent of Scripture.
  • Students should have a feel for the fact that it is alright to change structures, and that many different types of structures are effective.
  • Students should understand what the process of Ministry Networking entails. They will be ready to participate in the Network Seminar.
  • Students should understand the differences and similarities between the old and the new structures employed at Xenos.
  • Students should understand what a task-oriented Ministry Team is.
  • Students should understand what a grounding group is.
  • Students should understand the philosophy involved in Ministry Networking and Fellowship groups.

How do We Create a Structure for the Local Church?

Every local church has certain goals, and a strategy for accomplishing those goals. It also has structures and methods by which it carries out this strategy. How should we determine these things. Since we want to base such decisions on the Bible, it is vital that we approach the biblical data with sound interpretive principles. Unless we do this, we will build the church in ways that are ineffective, or perhaps even at cross-purposes with Christ.

No wonder Paul says that we should "be careful how (we) build!" (1 Cor. 3:10) The following chart illustrates what we believe is a good methodology for accomplishing this goal.


Explaining the boxes

Biblical Data consists of the material from Scripture which describes the essential nature and mission of the church. As argued earlier, this material includes material that is universally applicable (such as ethical principles), Jesus' specific teaching about the church, Acts, the epistles and Rev. 1-3. One of the primary considerations must be whether the scripture is describing precepts, principles, or examples. Each of these provide a different level of authority, application, and/or flexibility to today's church.

Precepts refer to specify commands addressed to the church. These precepts define aspects of the church's mission and are applicable to all Christians in all ages. The Great Commission (Mt. 28:19) and the exercise of church discipline (Mt. 18:15-17) would be examples of such precepts.

Principles refer to descriptive doctrinal statements about the nature of the church which have universal relevance. For example, the analogy of the local church as a physical body (Rom. 12:4,5) describes certain features of church life (e.g. mutually interdependent involvement) which have important implications for church structure.

Examples are just that--examples of ways that the New Testament church gave expression to scriptural precepts and principles. Since cultures and church resources change, scriptural examples are not binding. However, in view of the tremendous fruit borne by the New Testament church, it is wise to carefully consider one's reasons before deciding not to include them. House churches are an "example" which seems to have virtually universal relevance since home groups greatly facilitate koinonia. The Jerusalem church's communal property seems to be an "example" which was not the norm even in New Testament times.

Wine refers to what God is trying to do at this time. Jesus referred to this "wine" in his parable of the wine and the wineskins in Lk. 5:36-38. Although our understanding of the biblical data describing God's program may grow and deepen over time, it is a body of truth that is unchanging and therefore serves as an anchor for our work in building the church.

Field refers to that segment of our culture which God has called us to reach for Christ. "Resources" refers to such things as people, spiritual gifts, money, facilities, reputation, knowledge and expertise which the local church presently possesses. Both of these features are in a state of constant flux.

Skins refers to the present tactics of the church--especially the structures and methods employed to carry out that strategy. On the one hand, "skins" are very important because they have the ability to enhance or inhibit the expression of the "wine." On the other hand, "skins" are subordinate to the "wine" and derive their value from how well they serve the "wine." They have no intrinsic value and should be cast aside once it becomes apparent that they are no longer serving this purpose.

Results refers to the extent to which the church is accomplishing its mission. Both quantitative (more people coming to Christ) and qualitative (Christians becoming more mature spiritually) growth are important results.

Periodic Re-evaluation refers to the necessity of reflection and change in church tactics, structure and methods. As we evaluate the results of our work, and as we evaluate the ways in which our field and resources have changed, these factors will periodically necessitate the innovation of new "skins."


The Need for Change

Thus, while the essential nature and mission of the church should remain constant, its outward appearance should be constantly changing. But human nature naturally resists change. There are many reasons for this fact, but it is a feature which tends to gradually render the local church ineffective. Since we naturally tend to become attached to the "skins," we often preserve them long after they have ceased to serve their purpose.

Because this process is very gradual, those involved often do not even realize that it is happening. But when this occurs, the local church ceases to be a dynamic movement and instead becomes a stagnant institution. Church history makes it clear that unfortunately this is the norm rather than the exception.

One of the crucial responsibilities of the leaders of the local church is to fight against this tendency. Leaders must lead the church into change as often and as extensively as is needed if they are to be faithful to the living Head of the church, Jesus Christ.

Other Wineskins

Each local church has significant differences in both the fields they are reaching and the resources they possess. For this reason, it should not be surprising that there are many different "wineskins" which are effective in church growth. It is important to realize this, since the natural tendency is think that our present "wineskin," if it is effective, is the best way of doing things.

Below are examples of churches which have all enjoyed significant growth, but which have employed a wide variety of "wineskins."

  • New Hope Community Church: Started by Dale Galloway in Portland; focuses on people with "felt needs" as opportunity for outreach; utilizes hundreds of small groups for evangelism; utilizes large meetings for worship
  • Willow Creek: Started by Bill Hybels in suburban Chicago; focuses on corporate male 25-45; utilizes large seeker-sensitive meetings in an impressive, non-churchy building; strong emphasis on friendship evangelism; developed NETWORK to facilitate mobilization of people into suitable ministry; is presently developing home groups for both koinonia and outreach
  • Fellowship Bible Churches: Started by Gene Getz in Dallas; somewhat contemporary worship services centered around solid Bible teaching; strong emphasis on fellowship facilitated by home groups; has successfully utilized Dallas Seminary graduates (where Getz taught) to start several new churches; growth may be largely assimilating Christians, since evangelism is not strongly emphasized
  • Elmbrook: Led by Stuart Briscoe in suburban Milwaukee; traditional worship services with excellent expository preaching; strong line of courses offered, including a branch of TEDS; Briscoe and wife have regular TV show; have successfully daughtered four churches in the Milwaukee area; strong emphasis on foreign missions
  • Bear Valley: Formerly led by Frank Tillapaugh and Paul Borden in Denver; emphasized facilitating laymen starting new ministries; against building larger facility, instead using same facility to house different ethnic congregations
  • Calvary Chapel: Started in Costa Mesa by Chuck Smith who was a key figure in providing acceptance of hippies and direction for the Jesus Movement; moderate charismatic with solid Bible teaching; strong emphasis on domestic church planting. Over 800 churches planted in the U.S.
  • Vineyard: Broke off from Calvary Chapel; John Wimber has emphasized "power evangelism"--relying on Spirit-led encounters rather than persuasion; moderate charismatic large-group worship services and home "kinship" groups for koinonia; Vineyard is a new denomination, starting new churches or assimilating existing groups nationwide