For the third year in a row Gateway Bible Church (my home church) has sponsored a conference for Pastors and church leaders in both the city of Santa Cruz and the mountain town of Samaipata, Bolivia. This opportunity has come about at the request of Pastor Matias Mojicas Sr. who serves as the pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Santa Cruz, a church that he started many years ago. Over the years, Pastor Matias has seen churches start in many places around the Santa Cruz area and now serves to oversee and care for the pastors serving in those churches.
Two years ago, on our first trip, we sought to understand what kind of training would be most helpful to the pastors.
After ministering in their churches, hosting a conference on Preaching and spending a few hours in discussion with the pastors in that area we settled on hosting Practical Preaching Workshops following the pattern of the Charles Simeon Trust training workshops.
These training sessions involve three activities:
Instruction – 6-9 sessions on principles of exegesis and understanding and applying the text. During these sessions we want to teach the attendees to be like detectives in seeking to understand the structure, emphasis, central theme and aim of the text.
Model Preaching – 2-3 sermons are preached by the instructors and/or host pastors as examples of expository preaching followed by purposeful and extensive questions and answers regarding structure, emphasis and ideas. It is not often that pastors can help one another by discussing and evaluating their sermons. Here is Pastor Matias faithfully preaching from 2 Timothy 4:1-8.
Workshops – 4-5 small group sessions where those in attendance work together on an assigned passage of Scripture under the guidance of a group leader.
The participants work through six questions about the text that will result gaining the structure, emphasis and central theme of the text as well as seeing how the text connects to the gospel. This information is the skeleton necessary for developing a faithful expositional sermon.
Both Pastor Matias Mojica Sr. and his son, Matias Jr. were an integral part of the conferences by sharing in the translation as well as in helping guide the attendees in the small groups.
Without their passion and love for these pastors this ministry would not be so effective. They are the backbone for the future of faithful expository ministry in the Santa Cruz region of Bolivia. Please pray for them.
We were thankful to have over 35 attendees attend the Santa Cruz conference held at Bible Baptist Church and over 15 in the mountain town of Samaipata.
Here is some advice on Writing and the use of the English language that C.S. Lewis gave a child in America on June 26, 1956. I wish I had been given this advice when I was a Bairn. It is good advice for me still today…and may we all take it to heart..
What really matters is:
1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean, and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long vague one. Don’t “implement” promises, but “keep” them.
3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “more people died,” don’t say “mortality rose.”
4. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful,” make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only saying to your readers “please will you do my job for me.”
5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”
C. S. Lewis, quoted in John Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), p. 235.
Which of these pieces of advice do you struggle with the most?
I must admit that I tend to struggle with points 1 & 4. From my experience of being “misunderstood” I think that I may not be in the habit of making sure that my sentences are clear and can only mean what I want them to say. I also tend be terrible at using adjectives that tell people how I feel rather than describing the situation so that people are terrified. It is an infinitely horrifying thing!
There are some preachers from more recent church history that have had a great impact on my life. One of them, whom I will quote often, is D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, once a leading British physician turned preacher during the late 1920’s. He was born in Cardiff, Wales, and his family attended a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church (Now, if you can figure out how those words all go together without some conflict, please help me out).
His first church was in Aberavon, Wales, where he took a dying and very pragmatic church, reintroduced the systematic preaching of the Word, bringing revival to the church and then the town. After ten years he accepted the call to co-pastor with G. Campbell Morgan, an American pastor, at Westminster Chapel in London.
Ian Murray’s two volume biography of the life of Loyd-Jones is a rare treasure and excellent reading. I find that he faced many of the same issues that I face as a pastor in 2008. Certainly the garments of the issues are a little different, but in essence they are the same. Lloyd-Jones was a consistent reader and was instrumental in the beginning of printing quality books for Christian growth establishing the Banner of Truth and was instrumental in the birthing of the Inter-Varsity Fellowship.
As you can see, he was a very serious man and took his Bible study and preaching very seriously.
I am very thankful for the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recording Trust (www.mlj.org.uk) for providing this video and for the numerous recording available today.
I praise the Lord for counselors like Lloyd-Jones who keep my nose in the Word of God rather than the latest fad that is blowing through Christian culture.
It is uncanny, but when I think about these men working together for the Gospel I can’t help but think about some of my other friends that I grew up with…
Here is a newer interview Joan Blackwell that shows how crisp, clear, bold and refreshing Dr. Lloyd-Jones was. He is an example to us all – especially me.
In the milieu of ideology on church growth and strategy it is refreshing to read wise counsel from faithful pastors of past generations who remind us that, although we may be experiencing a dynamic change in the technological and informational realms, the Gospel and the preaching of that Gospel never changes at its core. Consider the words of William Still who speaks to the issues of the Pastor as Evangelist and Shepherd:
Too many [pastors] today pin their faith for fruitful evangelism on harping for ever on a few Gospel facts isolated from the broad and full context of the whole Bible.
Still’s point is that a truly evangelistic ministry is one in which the whole counsel of God’s Word is made to bear. Still appeals to James Philip’s words…
The church’s evangelism ought to be one in which all the counsel of God is made known to men. We need a recovery of belief in the converting and sanctifying power of the living Word of God in the teaching of the pulpit and its ability to transform the lives of men and produce in them the lineaments and fruits of mature Christian character.
Still further contends that when the pastor loses sight of the power of the Word of God preached and begins to focus on or emphasize other things it is time for him to reconsider his calling. It is the pastors responsibility to feed the flock.
If you think that you are called to keep a largely worldly organization, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of the ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God. The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats int sheep by pandering to their goatishness.
Those are strong words, but words that need to be considered for anyone who is called to serve the church of God as Pastor.
Do we really believe that the Word of God, by His Spirit, changes, as well as maddens men? If we do, to be evangelists and pastor, feeders of sheep, we must be men of the Word of God.
These are important questions for both Pastors and Sheep to consider:
Pastors – Are we really feeding the sheep by proclaiming the whole counsel of God?
Sheep – Do you really want to be fed the whole counsel of God, plainly and clearly, and with passion and conviction?
Caught your attention, didn’t I. This past month I attended the 2012 Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, KY. While there I was introduced to Carl Trueman, the Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Now, when I say “introduced” I don’t mean personally, but I did have the privilege of sitting in his workshop and listening to his dialogue during one of the panel sessions on the subject of Celebrity Pastors.
Now, the fact that he is a Britt like me was intriguing as I think that I have been helped in my pastoral, theological and philosophical walk through godly men from across the pond who have this uncanny ability to look at American Evangelicalism from the outside and make exposing constructive criticisms. Not only is Carl Trueman effective at this, his many thoughts are very honest and revealing, not to mention refreshing and provocative.
Here is an article he wrote the other day about Multi-Site ministries from Reformation 21. Read it with an open mind fashioned by God’s truth and then enjoy the spoof video that I created…
Any classic rock fan knows that there is nothing quite like hearing a live band. A few years ago, I went to hear The Who (or at least Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, the extant members). I remember listening on the way home to a live recording of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ just after hearing the real thing in the stadium. Even without Moon and Entwistle, the live performance was so much more powerful than the recording which, in the immediate aftermath of the concert, sounded like an anemic cover by a wannabe boy band. The same thing applied next day to my watching of the video of the last time the original line-up ever played together, performing that very song. It was simply not a patch on actually being there, despite the absence of Keith and John.
Presence is important. In a world where it is easy to simulate presence, even visible presence as by television, webcam or skype, it remains the case that actually being in the immediate physical proximity of somebody is important. We all intuitively know this: given the choice of talking to a loved one on the phone or over a camera link up or in the same room, who would not want actually to be with them?
This raises an important question about the notion of multi-site ministry, where the preacher is piped in to various locations by satellite link-up or fibre optic cable. Of course, this practice is susceptible to numerous lines of devastating critique. One might suggest that it moves the church towards a model where the accent in preaching is increasingly on the information communicated, nothing more; one might also raise questions about the way it detaches pastoral care of congregations and individuals from the ministry of public proclamation. For church officers it should surely be a nerve-wracking notion that pastors are to be held accountable for those entrusted to their care; and how can they give a credible account of such care if they do not know the faces, let alone the names, of those thus entrusted to them? Finally, one might point to the extreme example now being set by groups such as Mars Hill: what does ‘contextualisation’ mean when one man based in Seattle can pipe his message to congregations across the country, perhaps eventually across the world, regardless of any local context into which his messages might be broadcast? Even those of us who think the whole preoccupation with contextualisation of recent decades has tended to be rather overblown find such an action to be contrary to good sense.
All of these are important lines of critique; but there is one further one which is, I believe, lethal to multisite because it involves a poker tell on the part of its practitioners which reveals a fatal inconsistency.
A couple of months ago a pastor sent me an email written by one of his congregants who had been on vacation and had visited a campus of one of the better known multi-site evangelical ministries. His description of what he had witnessed was balanced and matter of fact, even appreciative at points; but one observation he made really piqued my interest: he commented that, although the preacher was piped in by videolink, the music band were actually present.
That observation strikes me as being of crucial importance not only to critics of multi-site like myself; but also something with which multi-site advocates must themselves wrestle. It seems to me (at least on the basis of the anecdotal research which I have been able to do) that nobody in the multi-site world pipes in the music by videolink in the way that is simply assumed as legitimate when it comes to the preacher. Yet in so doing, it seems to me that such ministries are conceding the importance of presence – of real, physical presence – to the gathering of the church. They are also begging the question: why have a real band when the most important thing, the preaching, can be beamed in? Or is it that the preaching is no longer the most important thing?
Some might well respond that it is easier to find good musicians than good preachers and this accounts for the apparent anomaly. That has a specious plausibility but rests on rather dubious premises. First, it reinforces the developing mythology that preaching the gospel is very difficult and that there are only a couple of dozen people in the entire United States who are any good at it. To quote Gershwin, it ain’t necessarily so. If it were, Paul would surely have told us. In fact, he pours scorn on the Corinthian church’s fascination with orators; what he requires of ministers is that they be competent to teach. That necessarily means they must be able to express themselves clearly and with conviction; but it does not mean they need the rhetorical skills of Winston Churchill or the brilliant classroom presence of Richard Feynman.
Second, it assumes the absolute negotiability of immediate physical presence. Apparently, it is better to have the big man piped in from the outside than have somebody less skilled doing it on site. Yet much is lost when that is done. Anyone who has ever taught or preached in the immediate presence of a live audience or congregation knows that there is a dialogical relationship between speaker and listeners. It may well take place at an almost subconscious level; but one instinctively reads signs from those listening and modifies one’s voice and even one’s content in the light of such. This becomes clear to any teacher who has also taught by videolink: the connection to those whose presence is mediated via a video screen is not susceptible to the same subtlety or implicit dialogue. In short, the relationship is fundamentally different: blunted, distant and relatively impersonal.
One might also add that mediated presence is inevitably presence that is less confrontational. Again, I remember some years ago seeing Jessica Lange playing the lead in a West End version of A Streetcar Named Desire. I had read the play; I had seen the Elia Kazan movie numerous times; but nothing prepared me for the raw psycholgical impact of seeing the emotional implosion of Blanche Dubois on the stage just in front of me. Lange’s physical presence before me made all the difference. The movie and the play were not two forms of the same piece of art; in terms of reception, they were two utterly different works of art. Watching a video of a preacher, even in a crowded auditorium, is similar: immediate presence is confrontational; mediated presence is always easier to domesticate. Not two forms of the same thing but two different things.
The preacher who pipes himself in to numerous sites needs to ask himself if, by doing so, he loses the key elements of subtle dialogue and direct confrontation with a physically present congregation which are so important; the congregation satisfied with a video pastor needs to ask if its satisfaction is in part related to the absence of the man, an absence which inevitably tames that confrontational element which is such an important part of what Luther called ‘the word which comes from outside.’
There are those pastors who will say ‘Well, if we plant a church but I am not the regular preacher, people have told me that they will not come.’ That may well be true but it begs a follow-up question: does that not indicate a serious problem in the heart of the people? That pastor needs to call those people to repentance: it is not the man, it is the message which is meant to feed their souls. Sure, the message can be preached boringly, badly and even heretically by some; but there are more than a half dozen men in the USA who are competent to teach. Good preaching may be at a premium; but that still does not make it either rocket science or infused Gnostic knowledge given only to a few of the chosen.
And they should also ask themselves why they always have live music. ‘It’s easier to hire good musicians’ is a dodge, not a sufficient answer. In having live music, you concede the vital importance of presence. You should now apply that to the preaching as you do to the congregation’s response to the same.
What is the driving vehicle for ministry in many churches? This little video will shed some light.
Our Ministry Leaders are presently working through an excellent book called, The Trellis and the Vine, which is a clarion call for churches to take a fresh look at how they are doing ministry. It emphasizes the pervasive problem of “Program Oriented” ministry that can so easily be the focus rather than Jesus Christ.
An unusual thing happened at the Phillips’ household last night. I was showing my wife where she could watch and listen to David Platt’s sermon online from the 2012 Together for the Gospel conference. As I showed her how to access the vimeo video my son Gavin, who attended the conference with me, came and sat down next to us and began to watch. A few minutes later, my daughter Deanna squeezed herself between Gavin and me, and a few minutes later our youngest son, Adam, nestled into the fray by Elia. There we sat, our family of five, squeezed onto the couch watching David Platt’s message on “God’s Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death Defying Missions” (Note: we also have a daughter who is off at college, so we are really a family of six)
It was great to have my family listen to a sermon that faithfully expounded Revelation 5 and allowed the text to drive the message…and what a message it is! I won’t repeat all the content, but I will give some of my reflections personally and pastorally, but here is a summary of the main points of his sermon (the full text is below, thanks to Justin Taylor):
One Overarching Truth – A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions.
Three Underlying Premises
Local ministry and local missions are absolutely necessary!
Global missions is tragically neglected!
Pastors have the privilege and responsibility to lead the way!
Four Theological Truths – that flow out of Revelation 5
Our sovereign God holds the destiny of the world in the palm of his hand.
The state of man before God apart from Christ is utterly hopeless.
The greatest news in all the world is that the slaughtered Lamb of God reigns as the sovereign Lord of all.
The atonement of Christ is graciously, globally, and gloriously particular.
Four Practical Implications of What We Should Do – That flow out of those four Theological Truths
Let us lead our churches to pray confidently (for the spread of the gospel to all peoples).
Let us lead our churches to give sacrificially.
Let us lead our churches to go intentionally to all peoples.
Let us lead our churches to die willingly.
Now, apart from being an excellent example of homiletics and expository preaching this message moved me and others to do some genuine heart reflection in the area of missions. Ligon Duncan reflected that he thought David Platt’s sermon was the best message on Missions he had ever heard.
John Piper reflected, “This may have been the most powerful missions message I’ve ever heard. I needed to be quiet with God.” It was true, at the end of the sermon and after the closing song there was an unusual contemplative mood. We all had a break before another panel discussion, but there wasn’t the rushing around and haste that was common during these times, but rather hearts reflecting, talking and taking in what God had just revealed – and that continues to be the stirring of this heart!
If you know me at all you know that I have a big heart for missions. God has gifted me with opportunities to minister in countries like Russia, Bolivia and Costa Rica. I am passionate about teaching the nationals to do the work of the ministry and my wife, family and church has sacrificed weeks so that I could be used by God for His investment in the Kingdom of God through me. In fact, I have been accused of loving missions too much and that my heart is not really in the local church. So, there was so much for me that was convicting, encouraging, affirming and envisioning to muse over with God.
1. I Was Encouraged.
I was encouraged specifically by the reminder and reinforcement of what I know to be true, that God is Sovereign and that He is the one who is driving missions throughout the World…and I simply get to be a part of what He is doing. He doesn’t need me, but he loves me and includes me in the spreading of His Gospel throughout the world by sending me on trips where I can influence through His Word a small portion of a people group whether it is the Bashkort people of Russia – an unreached group or the Kechua Indians of Bolivia. This has been my passion for many years. I have taken teams, taught pastors and invested much of my time to somehow be a part and use my gifts and influence for His glory. He is good to have allowed me the privilege of joining Him!
2. I Feel Affirmed.
Since missions is “my” passion it often comes across as a selfish personal endeavor rather than a responsibility that I feel because I am a pastor of God’s people in the most prosperous country in the World. David’s clear direction is that Pastors need to take lead role in sending and being sent to do missions on short term, mid term and long term ministry. This has been my passion and will be for a number of reasons that I have articulated in the past and which Platt emphasized, but primarily because it is “God’s” passion. Here is what I have said…
God has given me an education – and I must use it for His glory
God has given me a position as pastor – and I must exercise it for His glory
God has given me resources – and I must use them responsibly for His kingdom and glory
God has given me freedom – to take time away so that I can invest and impact another people group for His glory
Those four stewardships come with great responsibility. To not use them in a missions context, for me, is a shirking of my responsibilities before God. It is not that I “want” to do missions for the fun of it or for some self gratifying purpose, but that I “have” to do missions for the glory of it. And, in doing missions I find joy because I am being faithful to Him. So, I love to take people with me to get “missionitis” and see the glory of God at work through our meager efforts.
3. I Am Convicted.
I am convicted that, although I have been passionate about missions, I have not done enough. In fact, with the accusations against me I have tended to be tentative rather than bold with regard for missions. That boldness is in no way a detraction from the ministry of the Gospel in my church or community. I work hard to faithfully proclaim the word to the people of God as well as to stir up the church to reach their community, but I must confess that I have drifted in the intensity of my missions passion on a corporate level as a result of the fear of man whose accusations have been unfounded, yet effective to silence me. I am ashamed to admit it, but it is true!
4. I Am Looking Ahead.
Our church, Gateway Bible Church, is in a great place at present. We have committed to being a strong missions minded church and are stepping out by faith to give graciously to that endeavor. So, as a new church plant, we have the great privilege of beginning with a clean slate. That is a true blessing as well as an opportunity to pursue an unreached people group. We want to approach missions effectively and God is gracious to us to give us some time to investigate what that will look like. I am excited to lead a church family in the glorious global endeavor to spread His Word to the nations.
I would highly recommend listening to the message below…
Below is the text for the sermon gleaned from Justin Taylor’s blog – I want to thank Justin for his hard work in providing this resource…
God’s Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death Defying Missions – T4G
One Overarching Truth
A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions.
Pastors who believe that God is sovereign over all things will lead Christians to die for the sake of all peoples.
Three Underlying Premises
This will clarify where we’re going, and maybe even disarm you a bit from objections that may already be rising in your mind and your heart.
(1) Local ministry and local mission are totally necessary.
I am not saying tonight—or advocating at any point—that we should neglect local ministry, in the local church or the local community.
(2) Global missions is tragically neglected.
The northern part of Yemen has 8 million people. That’s twice the population of the entire state of Kentucky.
Do you know how many believers there are out of those 8 million people? 20 or 30.
There are more believers in a Sunday School class in your church than in all of northern Yemen.
Over 2 billion people in the world today are classified as unreached—which means more than “unsaved” but that the gospel is simply not accessible to them.
(3) Pastors have the privilege and responsibility to lead the way in global missions.
Over 6,000 people groups with over 2 billion people in them are not yet reached with the gospel. This is a problem not for mission boards and mission agencies to address—this is a problem for every pastor and every local church represented in this room to address.
Pastors, we love people in our local churches (local ministry) and we love people in our local communities (local mission) to the end that one day all peoples in all the world receive the gospel of God and revere the glory of God (global missions).
And what drives all of this—in the heart of a pastor and in the heart of a local church—is rock-solid confidence in the sovereignty of God over all things.
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me,
“Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Four Theological Truths in the Text
(1) Our sovereign God holds the destiny of the world in the palm of his hand.
Revelation 5:1, “I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll. . . .”
Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Almighty God, just because he is almighty, needs no support.
The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God that is precisely what we see.
Twentieth-century Christianity has put God on charity. So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God. . . .
Probably the hardest thought of all for our natural egotism to entertain is that God does not need our help. We commonly represent Him as a busy, eager, somewhat frustrated Father hurrying about seeking help to carry out His benevolent plan to bring peace and salvation to the world. . . .
Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God. An effective speaker can easily excite pity in his hearers, not only for the heathen but for the God who has tried so hard and so long to save them and has failed for want of support.
I fear that thousands of younger persons enter Christian service from no higher motive than to help deliver God from the embarrassing situation His love has gotten Him into and His limited abilities seem unable to get Him out of.
Add to this a certain degree of commendable idealism and a fair amount of compassion for the underprivileged and you have the true drive behind much Christian activity today.
(2) The state of man before God apart from Christ is utterly hopeless.
Revelation 5:2, “I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.”
The scroll contains the grand purpose of God in the world. And the silence of heaven testifies to the sinfulness of man. No one is worthy, and John is weeping. There is no hope apart from Christ.
Thomas Watson: “Thus it is in Hell; they would die, but they cannot. The wicked shall be always dying but never dead; the smoke of the furnace ascends for ever and ever. Oh! Who can endure thus to be ever upon the rack? This word ‘ever’ breaks the heart.”
George Whitfield used to speak with tears in his eyes of “the torment of burning like a livid coal, not for an instant or for a day, but for millions and millions of ages, at the end of which souls will realize that they are no closer to the end than when they first begun, and they will never, ever be delivered from that place.“
The way we talk about hell—helluva game, helluva song—shows we have no idea what we’re talking about.
The state of the unreached in the world: they haven’t heard of God—and yet they have heard him and seen him.
Romans 1:18-23, “What may be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Although they knew God, they neither glorified God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like birds and animals and reptiles.”
The innocent man in Africa goes to heaven—the only problem is that he doesn’t exist. There are no innocent unreached people in the world. They are guilty before God and thus they need the gospel!
There are over 2 billion people in this world at this moment whose knowledge of God is only sufficient to damn them to hell forever. But there is hope!
(3) The greatest news in all the world is that the slaughtered Lamb of God reigns as the sovereign Lord of all.
“One of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’” (Revelation 5:5).
He was promised centuries ago to patriarchs of old: “the lion of the tribe of Judah . . . to whom shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10).
He is the Root of David: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him . . . and he will stand as a signal for the peoples” (Isaiah 11:1-2, 11).
“I will raise up,” declares the sovereign Lord, “for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king” (Jeremiah 23:5).
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:55-56).
“Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Throughout history, from the beginning of time, men have come and men have gone, women have come and women have gone, all of them, the noblest of them, the kindest of them, the strongest of them, the greatest of them—all of them have fallen prey to sin.
All of them—every single man and every single woman—a slave to Satan.
All of them—generation after generation, century after century—every single man and every single woman succumbed to death.
But then came another man—unlike any man or woman before.
This man did not fall prey to sin; He possessed power over sin.
This man was not enslaved to Satan; He was enslaved to righteousness.
And this man did not succumb to death; He triumphed over death.
How? By suffering as a lamb.
He was marred / despised / rejected / stricken / smitten / afflicted / wounded / chastised / oppressed/ pulverized in our place—and all who hide under the banner of his blood will be saved.
The Lamb of God has not only endured death in our place; he has defeated death by his power. He bears the scars of death, yet he is sovereign over death.
Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright.
Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.
His glories now we sing, who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.
Revelation 5:7, “He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.”
Salvation through sacrifice.
The consummation of the kingdom comes through the crucifixion of God’s Son.
Jesus was “obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has exalted Him to the highest place and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8-9).
(4) The atonement of Christ is graciously, globally, and gloriously particular.
“Four living creatures and twenty-four elders fell down and they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed/purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Rev. 5:8-10).
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has “chosen you in him before the foundation of the world, that you should be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, He predestined you to be adopted as his son through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in Him. In Him you have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of your trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on you according to His purpose. . . . In Him you have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:4-11).
Brothers and sisters, if there are 6,000 people groups that have still not been reached with the gospel of Christ, then we have missed the point of the atonement.
Our obedience to the Great Commission of Christ is incomplete if we just make disciples. Our commission is to make disciples of all the nations, of all the peoples.
Particular atonement drives global missions. So if we believe Revelation 5:9 (if we believe that Jesus died to purchase people from every tribe and tongue and nation), then let us go to every tribe and tongue and nation.
Why? Because we feel guilty that we’re reached, that we have all these resources? Aren’t we just “guilting people” into going overseas to the unreached? We feel bad so we go?
What drives passion for unreached peoples is not guilt, it’s glory—glory for a King.
It’s people who know that our sovereign God deserves the praise of not just 10,000 people groups on the planet, but all 16,000 of them. And we’re not going to stop until every single people group purchased by Christ is exalting His Name.
Four Implications of What We Should Do
(1) Let us lead our churches to pray confidently (for the spread of the gospel to all peoples).
Tell them Matthew 24:14. Tell them that “the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Tell them that, and then lead them to pray for the end to come. Ladd said this verse is “the single most important verse in the Word of God for the people of God today.” “God alone knows the definition of terms. I cannot precisely define who all the nations are, but I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore, the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms; our responsibility is to complete the task. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.”
(2) Let us lead our churches to give sacrificially.
For every $100 a Christian in North America makes, an average of $0.05 goes to the unreached.
Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: “The Bible’s teachings should cut to the heart of North American Christians. By any measure, we are the richest people ever to walk on planet Earth.”
See Psalm 67.
God gives his people worldly wealth for the spread of worldwide worship. The sovereign God of the universe has willed for us to be wealthy for the sake of his worship.
(3) Let us lead our churches to go intentionally to all peoples.
We need to have short-term, mid-term, and long-term missions.
There’s no question that we see Timothy-type people in the NT and Paul-type people in the NT.
God calls Timothy-type people to stay in a church (among the reached) and shepherd the body.
God calls Paul-type people to leave the reached and scatter to the unreached.
And pastor, there are men and women in your church whom God is calling to Paul-type ministry. Maybe not everybody, but some of them. God is calling them to pack their bags and move overseas to spread the gospel among unreached peoples.
So are you
calling them out?
coming alongside them?
taking time during the year in your preaching and in your pastoring to speak specifically to them?
leading the church to fast and pray like Antioch in Acts 13 and listening, “God, who are you calling out next to go long-term to unreached people groups overseas?” and waiting until he answers.
Are you listening? Could he be calling you?
Why don’t we just send money and let the local people do it? There are no local Christians, there are no local churches . . . that’s what it means to be unreached. God’s design is not for you and me to send them our money so they can lose their lives spreading the gospel instead of us.
(4) Let us lead our churches to die willingly.
A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions. Pastors who believe that God is sovereign over all things will lead Christians to die for the sake of all peoples.
Romanian pastor Josef Tson recounted a time he was being interrogated by six men. He said to one of them:
What is taking place here is not an encounter between you and me. This is an encounter between my God and me. . . . My God is teaching me a lesson [through you]. I do not know what it is. Maybe he wants to teach me several lessons. I only know, sirs, that you will do to me only what God wants you to do—and you will not go one inch further—because you are only an instrument of my God. Every day I saw those six pompous men as nothing more than my Father’s puppets!
During an early interrogation I had told an officer who was threatening to kill me, “Sir, let me explain how I see this issue. Your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. Here is how it works. You know that my sermons on tape have spread all over the country. If you kill me, those sermons will be sprinkled with my blood. Everyone will know I died for my preaching. And everyone who has a tape will pick it up and say, ‘I’d better listen again to what this man preached, because he really meant it; he sealed it with his life.’ So, sir, my sermons will speak ten times louder than before. I will actually rejoice in this supreme victory if you kill me.” After I said this, the interrogator sent me home. Another officer who was interrogating a pastor friend of mind told him, “We know that Mr. Tson would love to be a martyr, but we are not that foolish to fulfill his wish.” I stopped to consider the meaning of that statement. I remembered how for many years, I had been afraid of dying. I had kept a low profile. Because I wanted badly to live, I had wasted my life in inactivity. But now that I had placed my life on the altar and decided I was ready to die for the Gospel, they were telling me they would not kill me! I could go wherever I wanted in the country and preach whatever I wanted, knowing I was safe. As long as I tried to save my life, I was losing it. Now that I was willing to lose it, I found it.
Let us be finished and done with puny theology that results in paltry approaches to missions in our churches.
Let us believe deeply in the sovereign God of the universe who holds the destiny of the world (and our lives) in the palm of his hand.
Let us see the hopeless state of man before God apart from Christ, and let us lead our churches to pray, to give, and to go to unreached peoples with the greatest news in all the world.
We have been saved by a graciously, globally, gloriously particular sacrifice, so let us lead our churches and let us give our lives—let’s lose them, if necessary—for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom and the accomplishment of Christ’s commission.
And let’s not stop until the slaughtered Lamb of God and sovereign Lord of all receives the full reward of his sufferings.
Yup, it is a mouthful, but from where I sit right now, one week after the Together for the Gospel (T4G) 2012 conference I am still wading through my thoughts, God’s guidance and the pastoral encouragements given to me by Dr. CJ Markalbiti DeChandleplatterpiper III.
When you spend a few days immersed in fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, listening to powerful preaching from faithful expositors of God’s Word, praising God in simple but passionate worship and catching up with co-laborers from all over the country it is truly like drinking from a fire hose. So, the aftermath settling of all of those factors, but in particular, the preaching of God’s Word is still actively at work in me.
Now, I went to the conference with every desire to blog every day and share some personal reflections, however, God convicted me that I just needed to listen, be fed and that the motives of my desire were tinged with pride. So, I confessed my sin, sat back, listened and was glad for the relief and His ministry to my heart. Then, almost as a confirmation, I received an e-mail alerting me to the fact that Justin Taylor had updated his blog. I had just sat through the sixth General session with Kevin DeYoung and when I checked up to see what Justin Taylor had written I was warmly thankful because he had posted the notes from all the previous sessions including the one that had ended not ten minutes prior. Thank you Justin Taylor!!
So, over the next few weeks I want to share with you some of my personal reflections on those messages preached by Dr. CJ Markalbiti DeChandleplatterpiper III. I can honestly say that God brought an incredible cohesiveness to the conference through the theme of “The Underestimated Gospel”, the speakers, the times of singing, the testimonies and the conversation with my friends that followed.