Friday 22 January 2010

What is Missions?

This is a hugely important question for the church to face because enormous amounts of finance and energy are expended in ways that might not be biblical. Furthermore the constant promotion of ‘new’ church growth methods and church evangelistic movements tend to foster ever-increasing frustration and confusion as their promised methods fail to produce real fruit. So what is missions? I think the apostle gives us a clear answer in Romans chapter 10 which reads:

14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!"
16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?"
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Here Paul raises a logical progression of rhetorical questions which indicate the New Testament plan for missions. The sequence is as follows:

1. Authorised Messengers (who are trained and ordained men).
2. Proclamation (preaching, especially in the context of the church is the primary instrument for the extension of the gospel. Not drama’s, music, plays, healing meetings, Christian TV etc.).
3. Hearing (note the gospel is to be heard, not seen in an audio-visual production).
4. Faith.
5. Calling on the Lord’s name.

This sequence is a challenge to many contemporary mission movements who are often dislocated from the church and they commonly do not see the need for ordained men to carry that message. Instead young people are often sent on short term missions trips with little equipping in the content of the gospel message. Perhaps a major missions rethink is needed and hopefully the passage in Romans 10:13-17 can be a good place to start. Our starting point must always be the Bible and not our private opinions as Paul also wrote in Romans 4:3, ‘For what does the Scripture say?’

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Watch Out for ‘Liberals in Evangelical's Clothing’

Our Lord Jesus Christ warns us repeatedly that we are to be on our guard against deception, false teachers and also wolves who come to devour the sheep. Listen to these warnings:

Mt 24:4-5 ¶ And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many”.

Mt 7:15 ¶ “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves”.

This last warning is especially relevant to the church in 2010 because I believe that there is a new and subtle form of a ‘false teacher’ which comes in the guise of what I would call a ‘Liberal in Evangelical clothes’. The old Liberals were quite obvious and they would boldly deny the deity of Christ, the inerrancy of the Scriptures or the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus. This old-style liberalism still exists but within the Evangelical ranks no one would deny these things and remain credible.

However many men and women minister who are liberal in their approach to Scripture but they do not openly say so and this makes this heresy quite difficult to spot. Here are some examples of this new liberalism.

• The support for female pastors and women in church leadership is in reality a denial of the authority of Scripture (1 Tim. 2:12, 3:1-7). Scripture forbids women pastors and elders and therefore to support such a view actually usurps the authority of the Bible.

• An obsession by many is expressed in their pursuit for extra-biblical revelation which includes a desire for angelic visions, claims of receiving prophetic knowledge of the future (often in detailed ‘supposed’ visions), visitations to heaven etc. This is virtually inner-light Quakerism gone wild! These false preachers masquerading as Bible teachers lead many astray from a steadfast commitment to the written Scriptures toward a subjective, experience based Liberalism.

• Some claim “all that matters is that we love Jesus”. Beware! This statement is probably a cover-up for a doctrinal downgrade. Luke records in Acts 2:42: And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

The question remains open: are you continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine? This includes a commitment to the authority, sufficiency and finality of Scripture. This blog comment is brief but hopefully it will stimulate your thinking. In conclusion listen to the Westminster Confession (Chapter1:10) on the doctrine of Scripture.

The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.