This is part 2 of a series of blog posts centered on the theme of “What is a Missions-minded Church?”
God gave my family and me the privilege of serving as missionaries in the country of Chile in church-planting and theological education. We were part of Baptist Mid-Missions from 1996-2006. After almost 10 years of being back in the US, serving mainly in Christian School ministries, God began to work in a miraculous way to help us reconnect with our brethren at Adelphos, the first Chilean fundamental mission agency. Through our local church, Faith Baptist Church of Pekin, IL, and with the direction of Adelphos-Chile as well as the participation of several area churches, we founded Adelphos-USA.
Throughout my missionary travels, I have heard dozens of ideas of what a “missions-minded church” is. And while none of those ideas were “bad” or “sinful” per se, they have rarely been backed up with Scripture. It is the purpose of this series of seven blog posts to look at Acts 13:1-4, comparing it with other Scripture, and try to come to Biblical definition.
In part 1, we examined the fact that a “missions-minded church” is a LOCAL CHURCH. At first blush, this seems to be a painfully obvious statement, but a closer examination showed that many times the local church is not at the center of missions. It is that marginalization of the local church that has led to a decline of its participation in missions over the recent years.
Our second statement should also be painfully obvious, but, as with the first, it is not always true.
In this article, we will examine the fact that a “Missions-minded Church”…
PREACHES and TEACHES the BIBLE.
Acts 13:1b - “there were in the church…certain prophets and teachers…”
Without going into a lengthy Greek exposition, the prophet (prophetes in Greek) was not only known for “foretelling” but also for “forth-telling.” The bold proclamation of “thus saith the Lord” from extant Scripture was just as much a part of the prophet’s ministry as revealing mysteries and future events through the power of the Holy Spirit. The prophet had a PREACHING ministry. And while I believe the gift of prophecy ceased with the completion of Scripture, we still need that bold proclaiming of the Word. We need PREACHING.
The more common terms in the New Testament for “preacher” are kerux and euaggelion. These terms emphasize the need to “proclaim the truth.” Considering the three terms together in the New Testament, it is clear that PREACHING is important.
However, some “experts,” even well-meaning “church-growth experts,” say that we should reduce the amount of time given to, the amount of importance given to, and the confrontational aspects of, PREACHING in order to build a church. Sadly, many have followed their advice. At the time when the PREACHING of God’s Word should be reaching into that place where only it can reach – the divide between soul and spirit, the discerning of thoughts and intents (Hebrews 4:12) – many churches are experiencing little more than a motivational speech or a psychological feel-good time. No! The church is to be a PREACHING center, a lighthouse of the Gospel, and a fortress of the Faith. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians chapter 1, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (vs. 18) and “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (vs. 21)
Of course, the Mark account of the Great Commission tells us to “preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). The verb, “kerusso,” means “to proclaim as an herald.” PREACHING is necessary to the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
I remember a revival speaker who used to say, “We have ‘christianettes’ listening to ‘sermonettes’ given by ‘preacherettes' and we wonder why the church is powerless.” The product of a lack of clear and authoritative PREACHING is a weak church that neither evangelizes its community nor sends missionaries cross-culturally.
We also need teachers (didaskolos). Forty-seven of the 57 times this word occurs in the New Testament, it is in the Gospels and most often refers to Jesus Himself. In fact, “Teacher” (or “Master” or “Rabbi” - all the same Greek word) is the most common title given to Jesus in the Gospels. And we ought to imitate Christ in the TEACHING, as well as preaching, aspect of His ministry. (Matthew 9:35)
This very word, in its verb form, is found in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). It is impossible to fulfill the Great Commission without the presence of TEACHING.
As a side note, I personally don’t like to draw a absolute dichotomy between preaching and teaching. As one of my homiletics teachers said, “Good preaching teaches and good teaching preaches.” However, I think we understand that some logical differences do exist and we realize that God has gifted some men more toward PREACHING and others toward TEACHING.
However, it is important to remember that BOTH are necessary.
But what are we PREACHING and TEACHING?
Now we may say, “I preach (or I teach) the Bible,” but I would like to ask just one question – Does my (your) preaching and teaching of the Bible merely teach the Bible as an academic and practical exercise or does it pulse with the heartbeat of God? You see, it is possible to preach from the Bible without the sermon PULSING with GOD’S HEARTBEAT.
And I’m not necessarily asking, “Are you preaching the whole counsel of God?” although that is necessary. I am sure we agree with Albert Barnes who, speaking of Acts 20:27 says, “Paul made a full statement of that plan--of the guilt of men, of the claims of the law, of the need of a Saviour, of the provisions of mercy, and of the state of future rewards and punishments. Ministers ought to declare all that counsel, because God commands it; because it is needful for the salvation of men; and because the message is not theirs, but God's, and they have no right to change, to disguise, or to withhold it.”
Yes! We ought to be preaching the whole counsel, not just bits and pieces that we select to meet “felt needs” or satisfy our “hobby horses.” But again, I am asking, does our preaching PULSE with the HEARTBEAT OF GOD? What is that heartbeat?
The heartbeat of God was, is,
and will be until the final judgment,
the salvation of people
from every tribe, family, kindred, tongue, and nation!
The entirety of Scripture pulses with this heartbeat:
A. In Genesis chapter 12:1-3 we have the Abrahamic Covenant. God is picking out one man to establish a special nation, but…why? So that “… in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
And we see that covenant repeated to Isaac in Genesis 26: 4 and to Jacob Genesis 28: 14.
God reveals His Heart in the Pentateuch
B. Solomon, David’s son and the “wisest man who ever lived” in the middle of his prayer of dedication of the Temple, says, “Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake; (For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house; Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name. “ (I Kings 8:41-43)
And this is just one place where
God reveals His Heart in the History of the Old Testament
C. I think it’s especially instructive that David, the Man after God’s Own Heart, expounded on God’s heartbeat many times. Just one example of that is Psalm 67: 2 in which David cries out, “That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.”
Again, this is just one among many examples where
God reveals His Heart in Wisdom Literature
D. In verses like Isaiah 49:1-6; 56:3-8; 66:18-20, 23, as well as the sending of Jonah to Nineveh, as well as many other passages, we see that
God reveals His Heart in the Prophets
Luke’s account of the Great Commission is particularly instructive here. In it Christ Himself reveals that all of the Old Testament points to Him and God’s redemptive plan for the World!
“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
(Luke 24: 44-47)
E. In Luke 2:30 – 32, when the baby Jesus was presented in the temple, Simeon said “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people…”
And I would think that most people reading this blog don’t need to be reminded of the Great Commission, repeated in the Gospels and Acts, as well as the missionary accounts in Acts. So,
God reveals His Heart in the Gospels and Acts
F. The Epistles are filled with examples of missions, as well as instructions for missions.
God reveals His Heart in the Epistles
G. Finally, we see evangelism taking place during the Tribulation as well as the need for a priesthood in the Millennium in the book of Revelation. So...even then
God reveals His Heart in Apocalyptic Literature
And these are just a few examples. We could expound on many more from each section of Scripture.
God’s heartbeat is the salvation of people from every family, tribe, kindred, tongue and nation. And that heartbeat ought to pulse through our preaching.
One missionary to Central Asia, says:
“The God of the Bible is a God on mission. From Genesis to Revelation, His unfolding story reveals His heart for the nations and His plan to send His church to gather His lost sheep—to share the gospel, disciple new believers, plant churches, and watch them spread all over the world. Even now, God is gathering to Himself a multitude of peoples from every nation who are enjoying His grace and extending His glory. And He calls every believer to join Him in that mission.
"Faithful teachers of His Word are those who make that mission crystal clear to their people. When they preach through the Bible, they preach through it in context. They zoom out from the verses and chapters they’re expositing, and unpack the metanarrative that sets the stage for every story, every poem, every prophecy, and every letter.
"When your church is exposed to God’s global will on a regular basis, something amazing will happen. They’ll get wrapped up in it. If you want to change the culture of global engagement in your church or, put another way, if you want your people to obey Jesus, preach His mission. The change starts in your pulpit.”
A “missions-minded” church is a LOCAL CHURCH that captures the heartbeat of God from BIBLICAL PREACHING AND TEACHING.
If you would like to share how you make the Heartbeat of God pulse through your preaching, please leave that in a comment below!
Our next post will cover the topic – A Missions-minded church is Intercultural in its Experience.