Is the Church of England turning the tide?

 5760

Harriet Sherwood wrote an informed article on the future of the Church of England.

The Anglicans are spending some serious money on leadership development and church planting. No surprises, it’s the Evangelicals who are planting churches and producing future leaders.

Following and Fishing in Leicester — again!

 Following FishingCover 

We’re training again in the wonderful city of Leicester.

The best way to learn and implement this training is to do it multiple times and bring a partner or a team with you.

 

Unhindered

 White websmall

Acts is a book about Jesus’ gospel going through barrier after barrier as it breaks out into the world and into the hearts of men and women. It’s about the church overcoming roadblocks and impediments, persecutions and trials as it grows and boldly proclaims Christ.

James Emery White

If like me you’re feeling discouraged today, take a few minutes to read this piece by James Emery White on the word “unhindered” in the book of Acts. Let it remind you that despite your limitations God’s Word continues to spread, grow and multiply. And wherever the Word goes new disciples and new churches are the fruit.

A word has captivated me for over thirty years, ever since I first stumbled upon its significance while studying Greek in seminary. It’s unhindered.

If something is “hindered,” it’s held back, kept back, restrained. Something has gotten in the way, prevented it, stopped it. If something is unhindered, it is set free. It advances. It goes forward.

Unhindered has loomed large in my thinking for so long because of its unique place in the New Testament, and particularly in the book of Acts. The word is used twenty-five times in the New Testament, seven times in the book of Acts alone. Acts is a book about Jesus’ gospel going through barrier after barrier as it breaks out into the world and into the hearts of men and women. It’s about the church overcoming roadblocks and impediments, persecutions and trials as it grows and boldly proclaims Christ.

And it’s about individuals who will not allow anything to stop them from being used by God to take Christ to the world. Let’s take a quick tour.

Acts 8

In the eighth chapter of Acts we find a young man who was head of the Queen of Ethiopia’s treasury. He has been to Jerusalem and was reading a portion of the book of Isaiah in his chariot. We don’t know anything of his background, only that something had urged him to explore the Old Testament and the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Holy Spirit urged Philip, one of the apostles, to approach the eunuch and ask if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” So Philip explained how the prophecies of the Old Testament told of a coming Messiah, and that Jesus was that Messiah. But that wasn’t all:

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:31, 36-38 ESV)

In the Greek, “What prevents me from being baptized” literally reads “What hinders me?” And the answer is nothing. This was a Jew witnessing to an Ethiopian. Crossing racial, ethnic, political boundaries.

The gospel was going out to the world. Then comes Acts 10.

Acts 10

Peter was given a vision that he should no longer be bound by Jewish dietary rules, that under Christ, the law had been fulfilled, symbolic of the gospel going not only to the Jews but also the Gentiles. Just after that dream, the Holy Spirit prompted Peter to visit a man named Cornelius who had asked for some time with him. Cornelius was not a Jew. He was a Roman centurion. At that time, it was against Jewish law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or even to visit one. But the urging of the Spirit was clear. Do not show favoritism. All are to be accepted. All are to be reached.

So Peter went.

The centurion asked about Jesus. Peter told him, and Cornelius and his household gave their lives to Christ. But that’s not all:

Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:47-48)

The sentence “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized” literally reads “Can anyone hinder” or “Can anyone forbid” or “Can anyone stop” this from happening? And the answer was no.

Acts 11

Now, we turn to Acts 11. Some people didn’t like what happened between Peter and Cornelius. Apparently they hadn’t got word yet about Philip and the Ethiopian, but this news had reached them quickly. In a hastily called meeting the church leaders asked Peter, “Is it true? You went to the house of a Gentile? You ate with him? And you baptized him?” The idea of the gospel of Jesus exploding outside of Judaism into the Gentile world was mind-boggling.

As disciples they knew that Jesus was God in human form come to earth to show the way, but they didn’t quite get the scope of His mission. For them, He was the Messiah for the Jews. But that the Messiah was for the world was beyond their comprehension. Yes, Jesus crossed some pretty radical boundaries – there was, after all, that scene with the Samaritan woman at the well, and Zacchaeus was a bit sketchy – but did Jesus mean to unleash all this? Did He really come for everyone? Everywhere? So they took Peter to task, and Peter replied:

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:15-18)

There is our theme: unhindered.

Acts 20

But there is one passage that captures this dynamic, at least for me, more than any other. It brought unhindered to my attention so many years ago. In Acts 20 we pick up the end of Paul’s life. He had become a controversial figure on a number of fronts, but the bottom line is that where Paul went, Christianity went, and where Christianity went, the world was being turned upside down. Religiously, culturally, economically. Quite literally, riots broke out.

Paul had been beaten with rods, stoned, robbed, imprisoned, flogged and lashed. Now the Holy Spirit strongly urged him to go to Jerusalem, which was not a place Paul should go. It was the hotbed of opposition to everything he was about, which is why he had avoided it for years. And he knew what awaited him there. He was under no illusions about what was ahead:

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:22-24)

We know that Paul went to Jerusalem, was arrested by the Jewish leaders under false pretenses, and during that arrest they tried to kill him. Some Roman officers broke it up and then bound Paul in chains and arrested him for inciting a riot. As they began to flog him for good measure, Paul told them that he was a Roman citizen, which was true. That meant he had to be released and stand trial. But the city was so embroiled that they had to put him in protective custody. There the Holy Spirit urged him to take his case all the way to Rome so he could proclaim Christ there too.

Through his obedience he not only brought the message of Christ to Rome, but while in Rome he wrote some of the most pivotal portions of the New Testament, including Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and, later, 2 Timothy.

Acts 28

But the book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome. However, that’s not the final word. And I mean that literally. The final verses of Acts say:

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 28:30-31)

In Greek, the adverb is placed at the very end. Though it’s a bit awkward when put directly into English, it reads that Paul was “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness unhinderedly.” And that’s the last word of the last chapter in the book of Acts.

Unhindered.

From the Jews to the Gentiles; from Jerusalem to Rome.

And from Rome to today.

James Emery White

From James Emery White, Christ Among the Dragons.

Exponential Europe

Screen Shot 2016 08 23 at 9 57 12 am

I’ll be doing a session at Exponential Europe in October. Look forward to meeting if you can make it.

 

Chuck Wood on making Great Commission disciples

Merely praying the sinner’s prayer does not make a disciple.

In this video Chuck Wood models how he uses the Great Commission to help someone understand what it means to repent and believe.

Resource: Chuck’s notes.

 

The movements.net glass is now half full

IMG 6336

The appeal to redesign and rebuild the movements website and podcast has crossed the half-way point of $5,000 AUD.
 
I’m confident that we’ll get there by the end of this week.

You can give through MOVE by following this link. Write “Addison” for the worker/project name.

If you’re in the UK you give here and we’ll claim any gift aid.

Let me know if you’re having trouble with either option.

 

Why praying the sinner’s prayer is not enough

 Person 371015 960 720 

A few years ago I led a young man to Christ. At least I thought I did.

We met up again to work through basic discipleship. Lesson 2 was Jesus’ command to Be Baptised. We did a discovery bible study on Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Then came the surprise.

I asked Gary how he would obey what he’d learnt in the story. Here’s how the conversation went:

Steve there’s no way I can get baptised.

Why?

If I got baptised I’d have to be a real Christian.

What does that mean?

I’d have to stop sleeping around. I’m not willing to do that.

I assured Gary we could work on this together. That God would give him the strength to do what was right. Even when he stumbled, God would forgive and restore him. But he had to be willing to let Jesus rule in every area of his life.

Gary said no.

Gary had prayed the sinner’s prayer, but he wasn’t willing to let Jesus rule in his life. That’s not saving faith.

When I’m training people to do Discovery Bible Study, I often tell the story of the woman who wept at Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50). What amazes me is that nobody notices that Jesus announced to a room of Pharisees that this woman’s sins were “many”.

Most people think the woman was rescued from religious bigotry by Jesus’ unconditional acceptance. Yet Jesus says her faith in him brought forgiveness and freedom from sin.

Throughout the New Testament we don’t find any examples of someone being asked to pray the sinners prayer. In the NT conversion is one experience with five key elements: repentance, faith, forgiveness, baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit. These are five ways of looking at the one conversion experience. You can’t separate them. (Robert Stein has done the homework on this.)

At Pentecost Peter challenged the crowd to:

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

Peter doesn’t mention faith, but it’s assumed. Sometimes other elements aren’t mentioned, but they’re assumed.

Back to my friend Gary. What could I have done differently?

I like Chuck Wood’s approach. When someone says they what to turn and put their faith Christ, he takes them Matthew 28:18-20.
He has them read it out loud. Then he explains:

  1. All authority in heaven and on earth is given to Jesus. Are you willing to make him the ruler of your life?
  2. Jesus commands us to follow his example and be baptised. Are you willing to be baptised?
  3. Jesus wants us to learn how to obey everything he has commanded. Are you willing to meet with other disciples and learn how to obey what Jesus taught?
  4. Jesus commands us to go and make disciples. Are you willing to share the good news with others?
  5. Jesus promises that as we do these things he will always be with us.

Then he asks, Are you ready to turn and believe?

If the answer is Yes, you lead them to Christ, baptise them, and begin meeting for discipleship (7Commands).

If the answer is No. Offer to keep meeting for Discover Bible Study (7Stories of Hope).

The Great Commission has nothing to say about praying a prayer, it’s all about making disciples of the nations by going, baptising, and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded.

Related: 7 Ways to narrow the conversion-discipleship gap

Movements appeal approaching $4,000

Appeal $4000

 

I’m waiting for official confirmation from the office, but it looks like we’re getting near to $4,000 Aussie for the website and podcast appeal.

Thanks to all of you who have given, or would like to but can’t!

We’ll keep it open until Friday 25, August.

You can give through MOVE by following this link. Write “Addison” for the worker/project name.

If you’re in the UK you give here and we’ll claim any gift aid.

Let me know if you’re having trouble with either option.

Stetzer on the declining American church

Screen Shot 2016 08 15 at 11 55 53 am 

There’s a shift underway:

The polls are in and the news is bad for the Church in America. Christianity is on the decline, Americans have given up on God, and the “Nones”—those who have no religious ties—are on the rise. It is indeed true that parts of the Christian Church in America are struggling, while a growing number of Americans are far from God.

Ed Stetzer

Some of the detail:

  • A growing number of Americans have given up on God—or at least on organized religion.
  • Pew’s 2007 Religious Landscape study, which surveyed 35,000 respondents, found that about 16% of Americans claimed no religious affiliation. By 2015, that number had grown to 23%, almost one in four Americans.
  • In 1967, Gallup found that about 2% of Americans—or 1 out of every 50—claimed no religious preference. By 2014, that number had grown to 16%, or about 1 in 7.
  • In 2007, Pew found that about 8 in 10 Americans identified as Christians. That number dropped to 7 in 10 in 2014. Pew also found that less than half of Americans (46.5%) now identify as Protestants for the first time in American history.
  • The Pew data demonstrates a consistent and noteworthy increase among Americans who are disconnected from faith.
  • These studies show that American religion is in a period of slow decline.
  • Pew’s findings have led some to forecast the complete collapse of Christianity in the United States. The data, however, implies a more complex reality. Frankly, there is no credible research showing that Christianity is dying in America despite the flashy headlines we often see.
  • Instead, American religion is simultaneously growing and in decline. Fewer people claim to be Christians, but churchgoers—those who regularly attend services—are holding steady in some segments, and thriving in others.

Read on…

Regardless of the figures, keep in mind that if you wander out for an hour with a friend, praying for needs and sharing the gospel, you just might find a God-prepared person.

Communio Sanctorum – History of the Christian Church

Screen Shot 2016 08 11 at 5 00 36 pm

Communion Sanctorum is my favourite podcast on the history of the Christian movement.