Argentina 2012 Journal – July 1

This is the last assigned reading: chapter 21 from Evangelism, “Short-Term Missions: Supporting Those We Sent.” It’s a fitting conclusion to an already great book on evangelism, since this chapter deals explicitly with what we, as a missions team, are trying to accomplish. There are many ideas of what a short-term missions trip ought to look like, and how we as a church do it is very different than what a lot of churches do. That doesn’t make it necessarily right (but could be seen as problematic), but it’s been a blessing to know that our church does not simply go with the flow of how things are done, especially when there are a lot of practices within the church that are done simply for the sake of tradition. No biblical considerations are cited as to why certain things are done, and this includes the way missions is done.

This chapter has the healthy tone of dealing with misconceptions many may have with regards to short-term missions, giving some biblical guidelines to remedy the problem. Seeing short-term missions as a replacement for long-term missions, or as a valid form of church planting, or for immature believers to become more mature, or as a poor use of funds are to have accepted an unbiblical view(s) of what many churches seek to do faithfully. What the apostle Paul did on his missionary journeys could be called “Paul’s STM trips” (p. 297). What Paul tried to do is stated well by Clint Archer:

“Some of Paul’s journeys were neither church planting nor primarily evangelistic in nature. Instead he had a goal of encouraging those who were in the church plants” (p.297).

Citing Acts 15:36, he later writes, “This is what STMs do best: encourage, minister, and bring resources to those who are laboring for the gospel away from home” (p. 298). He then goes through the goals of STMs, which is always to reinforce the long-term missionaries’ goals and assist them. How we do that is by selecting the right target (five groups: the missionary, the local believers, the sending church, the local unbelievers, and the STM traveler), the right task (evangelism, labor, camps, and/or specialized ministry), and the right team (spiritually qualified, skilled, and at least one who has travel experience).

This chapter helped reaffirm the plans we have in mind as we go out to Argentina and be a support to Pastor Jorge and IBM. We always hope and pray that we would be of service to them out of obedience to Christ and His truth. Hopefully, that is accomplished on this trip and we can continue to be of service where we are in our own homes and communities. Soli Deo Gloria!

Argentina 2012 Update – July 6th

This is the email I sent out to my family as an update to what’s going on:

Hello everyone!

Sorry I haven’t been able to update you all on the things that have been happening here…it’s been an adventure, to say the least! First off, we are all ok. We left SD Wed morning at 6a to get to LAX at 8a to leave for our flight at 10a to Miami. We got there and then flew from Miami to Buenos Aires that night and arrived at around 6:45a on Thursday. We originally planned on leaving to Tucuman later that day at 3:20p and get to Tucuman at 5:20p, but our flight got cancelled. We weren’t told why, but they had already rescheduled our flight for later (6p). However, that flight was cancelled as well, and then we were originally going to fly out Friday morning at 6a. Cancelled again. Then one more rescheduled flight to 3:20p, but it was cancelled one more time. We are still in Buenos Aires. We spent the night in the airport, because we thought it wouldn’t be worth staying at a hotel and also we would need to check-in our luggage at 5a. The issue has seemed to be something with air traffic control in Tucuman. We have only been told that they are only accepting emergency flights right now, and we are not one of those flights. We don’t know what to expect tomorrow, but we are hopeful that God will still bring us to Tucuman safely. No one is sick, though we had not showered these past few days! =)
We are currently at a hotel for the night, and will head out early in the morning, since it was hard to sleep in the plastic chairs they had inside the airport. Please keep praying for us, that we would all be thankful still for the opportunity to go and share the Gospel to those who do not know it, and be willing to serve one another, as well as the church in Tucuman, to the glory of our great God. Love you all! =)
Cesar

Argentina 2012 Journal – June 23

Coming to the 20th chapter in Evangelism, “International Missions: The Selection, Sending, and Shepherding of Missionaries,” Kevin Edwards gives a blueprint for how a long-term missionary should be sent out onto the mission field when Scripture is consulted. There is a careful selection involved, as well as training, sending, and support…from the local church. This cannot be done apart from a Bible-believing local church, since, as seen in times past with the Student Volunteer Movement, to avoid doing so not only ignores the pattern of Scripture, but can lead to a dilution and ultimately a denigration of the gospel. There must be a greater involvement in the local church than there normally is, and that must include prayer, affirmation, and confirmation of the missionary candidate. God must be sought in guiding the church to find someone to send out and continue the work of the Great Commission. Who they choose must be elder-qualified (Titus 1:5-9 & 1 Timothy 3:1-7), since they would be leading the missionary endeavor, wherever it may lead. Their character must be observed in the corporate life of the local church that they are a part of, and excel in the work of ministry and pattern of holiness. They then must be confirmed, or ordained, for the work at hand, and with the approval of the church leaders.

How this looks once the missionary is sent out is one of partnership between him and his missions-sending church. He must be trained to be able to handle the Word accurately, preferably in the original languages, he must be prayed for, shepherded by the church, and finally financially supported by them. Edwards then lays out a model that Grace Community Church practices, which is more involved than the norm. It’s always insightful to see how churches have been going about fulfilling the work of the Great Commission, especially if they have had a longer Gospel witness in their area, and how that leads to full-time missionaries being sent out in full support of the sending church. We have just begun, and are hoping to do it again, and am looking forward to the day, if God wills, to send me wherever He decides to place me. I hope and pray that I am willing to go out wherever He calls me to, if He does, and that I would willingly go for the sake of His name.

Going over chapter 4 of Chantry’s book, “Preaching Faith Towards God’s Son,” repentance is not all that Jesus calls us to. He also calls us to faith in Himself as the One who saves. We must follow Christ, and not just acknowledge Him. This goes against what is standard in gospel tracts, where the idea of believing is boiled down to acknowledging Jesus as God and Savior; however, the implications of such truths do not sink down to the heart of the sinner and call for radical change in thought and deed. As the author writes, many evangelicals would probably be upset with how Jesus approached the rich young ruler in calling him to take up his cross and follow Him. The implications of false fruit can be disheartening and dangerous to the ones who are there to follow-up to those who ‘made a decision,’ as it can lead to a lot of self-deception, as well as conflicts of what determines true, saving faith.

“Preaching Assurance of Acceptance” is the next chapter which deals with how a Christian should understand assurance in an evangelistic context. We cannot provide assurance to anyone who immediately expresses interest in the things of God since we cannot see the heart of who we speak with. In short: we are not the Holy Spirit. It is His role in the work of redemption to assure the believer that he/she possesses true faith in the true God. This is not the standard view of the evangelical today. We are pressured or feel the strong burden of easing the conscience of someone who says they want to believe in Christ at that moment, as if that is our responsibility to do so.

The Westminster Confession of Faith is consulted, giving a great summary of how one can be assured of their faith in Christ:

This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God: which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.

As he writes in correlation: “Faith and repentance are the inward movement of mind, emotion and will. They cannot be measured by simple outward tests” (p. 62). It is more an inward heart response to the call that is made to the sinner that they can have a surer understanding of whether they have genuinely believed in Christ. The person outside of them can only observe fruits in accordance with repentance, yet always cautious to declare one way or the other for a new convert. This is why we must not be so adamant that we proclaim one saved until we see a new life emerging in the heart of a former rebel sinner against God.

“Preaching with Dependence Upon God” continues the discussion, but Jesus is no longer speaking with the rich, young ruler since he left, but now He is speaking with His disciples. He reveals to them that it is impossible for man to enter the kingdom of God out of their own power. Without God, nothing is possible; with God, all things are possible. We need to remember that it is not a limit on God’s power that man is not saved; it is the fault of the sinner who continually chooses to reject God’s truth and embraces their distorted version of it. God calls all to turn and follow; many mock, reject, or ignore His message. This is why we must not think ourselves to be the one who changes the person’s mind. We are messengers with a message not of our own choosing. We are to call all to come to Christ for salvation, and trust that God will display His power in changing sinners from the inside out with His designated message that Paul calls “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). Once people are made aware and can see the real state of their position before God, God will use that to draw them to Himself. We have the means, which God gave us, and we cannot live or think or act as if it’s any different than that in order to be used effectively by God.

Chantry concludes his work by reminding us that we cannot ignore preaching the character of God, the law, repentance, faith, the cost of following Christ as Lord, and the real tests of assurance in order to be considered a faithful evangelist. This is the one thing we must never compromise on: the gospel. Faithfulness to Christ hinges on this; souls hinge on this; your own life hinges on this. We must be faithful witnesses of the truth to those who are dying in Argentina. I pray to God that, as a team, we can be true to His Word and give honor to our God for all that He has done for us already.

Argentina 2012 Journal – June 21

The theme of this post is repentance, since that is the focus of all the chapters that we were assigned to read. We began reading our second book, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? by Walter Chantry, but I want to focus on ch. 13 of the Evangelism book. Called, “The Call of Repentance: Delivering the Message to the Conscience,” Tom Patton drives home the point that in most evangelistic opportunities, professing Christians do not mention the word nor the idea of repentance. In our day when saying anything negative or perceived to be ‘intolerant’ towards another view is, well, branded ‘intolerant,’ repentance becomes a teaching that is hard to maintain. The culture swims one way; the doctrine of repentance the exact opposite. This is the decline of our culture, and it has drastically infected the church to buy into its ‘morality.’

The case Pastor Patton makes is that repentance was a central element in the preaching of Jesus and the apostles, and was not to be limited in their time, but must continue to be taught, since man is still fallen and choose to ignore, suppress, and hate the truth of God. This is why it is rejected by many outside, and even inside, the church today: because of our fallen nature (Matthew 13:14). God’s character is not taken seriously because the church has not proclaimed it loudly to those who reject Him, leading to a mockery of the teaching of turning from sin, seeing it for what it is, and agreeing with God’s view of it. As he writes, “The essence of human lawlessness is an act of personal defiance against the character of God” (p.182). Because of this, what we need to all repent of primarily is the sin of unbelief. “Because the self-revelation of God and the call to conform to His likeness is at the heart of true biblical repentance, it follows that the foremost sin of which mankind must repent is the denial of God” (p.183).

He then focuses on 2 Corinthians 7:11 as a biblical profile of a truly repentant heart: earnest, eager, indignant about their sin, fear of God, longing, zeal towards holiness, and acceptance of any punishment deserved for what they did. Repentance is a change of mind and a change of direction in lifestyle. You cannot be a Christian without there being change taking place. What has been helpful is knowing that every person I know has either repented for their unbelief, or have yet to do so, and so I must call them to turn from that sin and believe fully in God by way of Jesus Christ.

Coming to Chantry’s book reminded me how good this book is. He doesn’t pull any punches. He lays out the state of evangelism among evangelicals and decries its shallow call to come to Christ. Of course, it isn’t good that evangelicalism has a hard time getting the evangel part right. However, having the right diagnosis is sorely needed in order for the right cure to be administered. Chantry’s diagnosis is primarily a lack of biblical teaching on repentance in our evangelism, leading to the bad fruit of ‘carnal Christians.’

How he seeks to remedy this is by expositing Mark 10:17-27 on the rich young ruler. The first chapter, ‘Preaching the Character of God,’ deals with how the rich young ruler approached Jesus, calling Him ‘Good Master’ when he didn’t know who he was speaking to. Jesus rebukes him for even associating a human being with goodness in their nature, apart from God. He had a stronger desire for pleasing the Father than loving the rich young ruler. We, too, must have this same desire as we preach the attributes of God to non-believers.

Chapter 2, ‘Preaching the Law of God,’ addresses the misnomer that the law is against love and that we should not, in preaching the Gospel, talk about God’s law. This, however, goes against the way Jesus approached the rich young ruler. This person would be celebrated today for his simple interest in coming to speak with Jesus, and asking how he can receive Christ. Imagine a famous actor coming to you, asking you how to receive eternal life; would you rebuke Jesus in how He answered the rich young ruler? The law is explained by Chantry as being an extension of love, especially since the law can be summed up as loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:37-40), and how that looks like in daily life with the ten commandments. By this, we can confidently preach God’s law as an act of love in revealing to those around us where exactly we fall short of glorifying God, and how that demands punishment against us. If people do not know they are sinners, they will never see their need for a savior.

The third chapter, ‘Preaching Repentance Toward God,’ Chantry drives home the point that Jesus did not tell the rich young ruler to simply believe in Him, but He calls him to turn from the lifestyle he was living, and follow Christ. The reason He did this was because of how idolatrous the rich young ruler was towards his riches. Jesus is warning him to turn from his lawless ways, or he will perish. Here is a helpful quote:

“[T]he Bible knows of no such grotesque creature as one who is saved but unrepentant. No illegitimate sons will enter God’s kingdom. They must have faith as their mother. But they must also have repentance as their father…Men must be confronted with Christ’s ultimatum to the ruler: repent or perish at the hands of a holy God whose perfect law you have criminally despised. Jettison your sin or God will cast you out of his sight.” (pp.44-45).

As we preach, we need to remember that to be with Christ now and forever, there must be an abandonment of sin in the life of the sinner. They are to admit their sin, turn from their evil direction, and go to the Savior as one who cannot do anything to save himself. He must come with empty hands of faith, trusting completely in the righteous life of Christ, and believe truly that He died on the cross to pay sin’s penalty, rising to life eternal, calling all to come and follow Him now and forevermore.

Scripture Memory

I know I’ve written about this before, but I wanted to let people know about the Scripture memory lists I gathered a couple years ago and still refer them to others who want to begin the sanctifying process of storing God’s Word in their heart and mind. None of these are my lists; they are all lists I’ve seen used by others, and thought it would be beneficial to have as a handy resource to access anytime I have an internet connection. So, without further ado, here they are:

Gospel Memory Verses

MacArthur Scripture Memory Verses

Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology Memory Verses

The Navigator’s Topical Memory Verses

Hopefully, I can have it done in Spanish, but if you want to memorize passages in other languages, the selection of verses is excellent. I wish I had all of them memorized. Anyone want to try with me? =)

Argentina 2012 Journal – June 9

Chapter 11 is next with John MacArthur’s “Jesus as Lord: Essential Components of the Gospel Message.” If you see the endnote, this is already material that was published prior to this volume (came out in The Gospel According to the Apostles; not mentioned but also showed up in Nothing but the Truth). Looking through the material in the first book, there’s material there that relates it more to the issue of Lordship salvation and even gives a word to how to evangelize children, which is not in this chapter I’m reviewing. (In case anyone is aware of my trying to work on a College Reader for Christian Students, the chapter in The Gospel According to the Apostles would definitely be in there) Two quotes I think help summarize the rest of the chapter:

Ignorant sinners need to be instructed about who God is and why He has the right to demand their obedience. Self-righteous sinners need to have their sin exposed by the demands of God’s law. Careless sinners need to be confronted with the reality of God’s impending judgment. Fearful sinners need to hear that God in His mercy has provided a way of deliverance. All sinners must understand how utterly holy God is. They must comprehend the basic truths of Christ’s sacrificial death and the triumph of His resurrection. They need to be confronted with God’s demand that they turn from their sin to embrace Christ as Lord and Savior…

The form of the message will vary in each case. But the content must always drive home the reality of God’s holiness and the sinner’s helpless condition. Then it points sinners to Christ as a sovereign but merciful Lord who has purchased full atonement for all who will turn to Him in faith. (p.152)

What follows is a listing of 22 truths that get into the heart of the Gospel message, with Scripture references. One wouldn’t think you would have to memorize every single passage in order to be effectively sharing the Gospel, though it wouldn’t hurt to work towards that.

What I very much appreciated is being overwhelmed with how much Scripture speaks to how a sinner can be brought into reconciliation with God again. There is no doubting what is called for in calling a sinner to new life in Christ. There is no doubt about who God has revealed Himself to be, who man is, who Christ is and what He did while on earth, and whom we are to give our allegiance to. I think this also is a chapter that would be good to read with people in your small group or a group of friends and devote time talking it over with each other. How can you incorporate aspects of this chapter in conversation with friends who do not know Christ? What would be a helpful point to draw out with people? And then, actually role-playing a conversation with different types of people responding. Perhaps…

The next chapter is “Starting the Conversation: A Practical Approach to Real-Life Evangelism” by Jim Stitzinger III (actually, most of this chapter came from the Evangelism workbook Grace Community Church came out with a number of years ago). He highlights the priorities of personal holiness, relentless prayer, and Gospel memory (using the same outline I have been blessed to know and pass around to other believers, as well as go over with my small group). The overall theme of this chapter is intentionality. We must be intentional in our conversations with those we know who do not love Christ. From which group your friends fit in (no knowledge of the Gospel, some knowledge, extensive knowledge), to how you engage in conversation with them (taking interest in their interests, listening, and asking questions). This is very hands-on material, and can immediately apply the next time you speak with someone (family member, neighbor, co-worker, friend, classmate, etc.). What was very helpful was its lack of gimmicky-ness. It isn’t a stale formula you adopt and expect certain results to come about, but a real flexible approach that focuses on the person you’re speaking with, and yet does not give ground on the truth of God. I would recommend both chapters to challenge the way many of us share the Gospel normally (ask questions that will solely put people in a corner, or listen but not really listen so you can get to the Gospel; believe me, they can see that happening).

Argentina 2012 Journal – June 2

Brian Biedebach’s chapter, “Equipping the Saints: Training Believers to Win the Lost,” was more designed for a pastor to understand his role in relation to his flock, although it’s always helpful to get a sneak peek into the life of a pastor’s work and understand the weight of his position. Seeing the example laid out in Acts 6, and the importance of the apostles devoting themselves to the Word and prayer, while appointed men would take care of the widows and needy within the church, which in itself became an evangelistic witness. Setting the priorities within the leadership of a church leads to a healthy church with a healthy corporate witness of the Gospel. When the culture of a local church reflects the love of God among one another, it exposes the world of its lack of love and displays a true picture of what real love looks like. This can become a beautiful picture of the Gospel that changes lives, and it also comes out in the preacher’s priorities. When the pastor models evangelism in explaining the Gospel in texts that address it, in giving illustrations from Scripture and his own life, and is enthusiastic about evangelism, the congregation will follow the lead of their shepherd to bring more into the fold, by God’s grace. It’s a joy to honestly see this grow in the context of Lighthouse Bible Church, where genuine love has been shown again and again as I attend, and where the leaders seek to equip the flock they have been placed in charge of by God. It’s reassuring to see this modeled at LBC, and hope this can be more common within local churches all over the world. That’s always a desire of mine to see at Iglesia Biblica Misionera, and something I continue to pray, since that’s what our focus is everytime we go: the evangelization of Tucuman that points to Christ, and continues through the ministry of IBM.

Kurt Gebhards’ chapter, “False Assurance: A Biblical Look at the Sinner’s Prayer” may be the most shocking chapter in this book. The sinner’s prayer is the most common way of “closing” the conversation with a non-Christian, and you cannot help but think that this is the only way of bringing someone to faith in Christ. After you explain the Gospel and the person reveals that they want to know Christ, what else can you say other than having them pray the sinner’s prayer? It is so pervasive in churches across America that to express any hesitancy in using it would bring looks of surprise or confusion among most Christians. What I found most helpful in this chapter is how the Gospel may be hindered from being fully expressed or fully understood if it’s continued to be used in its most common form. Not only can it do that, it can stunt the growth of new believers, when it may be perceived that nothing more is required than praying a prayer and all will be well. No mention of the cost of following Christ, nor the call of repentance is mentioned or highlighted as strongly. If many come to profess faith in Christ under this method, there will be many false professions within the church and can weaken the influence of the church to the world. Following Christ’s Great Commission is most helpful for us to look to and embrace wholeheartedly, that there would be a better understanding of the Gospel among the people in the community, and that people would more clearly accept or reject the true message of the cross.

I think it may hard to express how much I am in agreement with this chapter, since there is much bad fruit that has come about by using the sinner’s prayer as a tool to introduce someone to true faith in Christ. This would probably be the one chapter I would recommend to remove any misunderstandings about evangelizing the lost. There is an uneasiness that I have felt when I get to the end of a conversation with someone (especially when time has run out and we are expected to return to the host home of the people who live in the neighborhood we go to). What do you say to someone who tells you they want to follow Christ after you have explained the Gospel in its entirety to them? When you tell them following Christ means a change of perspective, and a change in living, especially in who you’re living for, and they still tell you they want to believe, how do you move forward? Especially after reading a chapter that essentially denounces the use of the sinner’s prayer without going in depth on an alternative? That might have been the only issue I had with this chapter, although having already read through the book, you aren’t left to your own opinions about what to do. Practical help in this regard is not as forthcoming as the diagnosis of the problem and the proper way of evangelizing. Walking with a new believer is just as much a part of evangelism, since there’s more that we say God does than just bringing people to heaven. There’s work He does while people are still here on this earth, and developing how that looks for Christian workers may be exceeding the scope of this book. However, discipleship under Christ and with the help of older Christians would have been a helpful inclusion in this book. I know other works do address this blind spot, so I’m not one to gripe, especially when Pastor John MacArthur has addressed this in sermons preached at Grace Community Church. (I think of series like “Advice to a Young Disciple,” “Fundamentals of the Faith,” and “A Practical Guide for Disciples.”) Look forward to a post on the topic of discipleship…when I get a chance. =)