Wednesday, 24 February 2016

My Life as a Missionary

     Over half my life has been devoted to missions, particularly in New Zealand and the South Pacific. My only regret is that it hasn’t involved most or all of my life. In my younger years this was one of the furthest things from my mind, but God has a way of broadening our horizons beyond our feeble imaginations.
WHY:
     Why did I get involved in missions? When I became a Christian at the age of 14, I fully intended to give the rest of my life to the Lord. Unfortunately, in my later teenage years, I allowed myself to be negatively influenced by the wrong kind of people and went astray. By the grace of God I survived my “wilderness wandering,” and while attending a Christian college (Freed-Hardeman University) I realized that the people I admired and respected the most were those who took their faith seriously. Once I got back on track and started growing again spiritually, I never looked back. I was convicted by God’s love and providential care and was determined to show Him my appreciation and live up to His expectations. As a disciple of Jesus I accepted my God-given “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) and was compelled to fulfill it.
WHERE:
     Where would I go to do the Lord’s work? It was never really a matter of where I was needed, since I could faithfully serve God wherever I happened to be. The question for me was where I might be needed the most, and since the majority of full-time workers in the Lord’s church were (and still are) in the USA, somewhere overseas was my main consideration. But there were over a thousand different places I felt that I needed to be, so I had to narrow down my options. Through the influence of former missionaries to New Zealand, and having done extensive research, corresponding with New Zealand Christians, and a lot of praying, I made one of the best decisions of my life. Being a long-term missionary in New Zealand became my primary focus, and the next few years were invested in preparing to achieve this goal.
WHO:
     With whom would I work? I wasn’t successful in forming a team, so it was a matter of either going by myself or not going at all. In my mid-20s I moved to Wellington, New Zealand and worked with the church there as a single evangelist for seven years. I then served as missionary-in-residence at Freed-Hardeman University for the next two years, during which time I married my wife Lynne. As newlyweds we moved to Wanganui, New Zealand, where our two daughters were born. We spent seven years establishing the church in Wanganui with two other families (a mix of New Zealanders and North Americans). After teaching Bible and missions at FHU for another seven years, I took a two-year leave of absence and we returned to New Zealand to plant the church in Porirua City, with the assistance of the nearby Wellington congregation. Now we’re back at FHU, while three other couples (FHU graduates) are carrying on the Porirua work.
WHAT:
     What have we done to reach the lost in New Zealand? The very best source of contacts for the gospel are friends and family members of those who are already Christians. Visitors to our worship assemblies are also good prospects. But when a brand new work is being started, other means are necessary. Bible literature distribution (letterboxing) and door-knocking are good ways to make initial contacts, with whom we always try to set up Bible studies. While this type of work is done on a smaller scale by the evangelist and local Christians, periodically larger campaign groups (principally from the USA) are utilized to make an even greater impact on the community. Other outreach efforts have included gospel meetings and special seminars, Holiday Bible Schools, Bible correspondence courses, youth and family activities, and benevolence. When conversions result from personal Bible studies, continued follow-up is invested to ground new converts in the faith and incorporate them into the life of the church.
HOW:
     How can you get involved in this kind of work? Here are five suggestions:
1. Dream. This is where it all begins. You must envision yourself actively involved in God’s work, not only enjoying His rich blessings but fulfilling your God-given responsibilities in His kingdom.
2. Desire. Your dream will at some point convict your heart and compel you to pursue it. We must have faith that the Lord will help us do whatever He has commissioned us to do.
3. Decision. The next step is to move beyond merely thinking about it and resolve to do something about it. This includes deciding where to go and making the necessary preparations.
4. Determination. It’s not going to be easy, and you can’t allow the inevitable setbacks and discouragements to prevent your dream from becoming reality. Giving up cannot be an option. As you are determined to do your part, trust that God will open the doors and take care of the rest.
5. Dedication. You have to be wholeheartedly committed to what you are doing for the Lord. Never let the devil win. As you remain faithful to the task, believe that with God on your side anything you set your mind to do can be accomplished.
CONCLUSION:
     While I am currently involved in recruiting and training prospective missionaries, admittedly my heart is still in the mission field. Once you’re a missionary, you’re always a missionary. Whatever you decide to do in the Lord’s service, and wherever you plan to do it, just think about where you might be needed the most and how you can make the greatest impact in view of eternity. I can confidently say without reservation that when you step into those missionary shoes, your life will never be the same! 
--Kevin L. Moore

Originally appearing in Hashtag Media's Mission (May 2013) under the title, "New Zealand Missionary."

Related Posts: Obstacles or Opportunities?Called to Be a Missionary Part 1Part 2Part 3

Related Articles: Stan Mitchell's The Bench


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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Where’s the Church in the Gospel Plan of Salvation?

     We are witnessing and/or hearing about considerable numbers of folks abandoning churches of Christ.1 Could it be that we, in general, have failed to fully grasp, value, teach, defend, and emphasize the crucial role of the church in God’s redemptive scheme? It seems that a generation has arisen with very little commitment to the Lord’s church, as the biblical concept has been ignored, diluted, and misunderstood. The pervading viewpoint advanced in recent decades, fueled by postmodern ideologies, is that the church of Christ is merely a denominational sect among many other viable (preferable?) options.
     A contributing factor to this sad state of affairs could be the common perception that the entire gospel plan of salvation consists of only five simple steps: hear, believe, repent, confess, and get baptized. While each of these is affirmed in multiple (often unconnected) biblical texts, surely we can agree that continued faithfulness is just as important. But what does this entail, and where does the church fit in? Doesn’t the Lord add penitent baptized believers to the community of the saved/the church (Acts 2:37-47)? Aren’t we baptized into the one body, i.e. the one church (1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:18; cf. Matt. 16:18)? Isn’t Jesus the savior of the body/the church (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23)?
The Book of Conversions
     While the fifth book of the New Testament is sometimes labeled “the Book of Conversions,” let us not forget that it is actually the sequel of a two-volume set. As Dr. Luke composed the historical narrative of Acts, he could reasonably assume that his readers were already familiar with “the former account” (Acts 1:1). Acts consists of selective highlights of the conversion stories it recounts rather than comprehensive details of each (cf. 2:40; 5:14, 20, 42; 6:7; 8:4-5; et al.). Although there is no explicit reference to confession of faith in chap. 2, or to baptism in chaps. 3-4, or to repentance in chap. 8, or to belief in most of chap. 9, surely we understand that it is the totality of information that provides the complete picture.2
     What about the church? The Greek word ekklēsia, translated “church” in our English Bibles, occurs no less than twenty-two times in the Acts narrative with reference to the congregated disciples of Jesus.3 As we trace the gospel story through Luke’s first volume (the Gospel) and on through the second (Acts), it is clear that the ekklēsia of Acts fulfills the numerous basileia (kingdom) prophecies of the Gospel.4
     Jesus came to earth in order to “preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:11),5 and he commissioned his immediate disciples to do the same (Luke 9:2; 10:9, 11). He promised that within their lifetime they would actually see this spiritual kingdom realized (Luke 9:27). Following his death and resurrection, and for several weeks prior to his ascension, the Lord continually reminded the apostles “of things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
      On the Day of Pentecost, when the gospel message was communicated in its fullness, penitent baptized believers were forgiven of sins and added to the company of the saved (Acts 2:21-47). From this point onward the church that Jesus had promised to build (Matt. 16:16-19) and the kingdom he had repeatedly foretold was coming (Matt. 4:17; 6:10; 16:28; 24:14; 26:29) are no longer spoken of prospectively. The church is present (Acts 5:11; 8:1, 3; 20:28; 1 Cor. 10:32; 11:22; Gal. 1:13; Eph. 1:22; et al.) and the kingdom is present (Acts 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31; Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20; Col. 1:12, 13; 4:11; et al.). God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and has transferred [us] into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins …. And he is the head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:13-14, 18a).
The Church is Part of the Gospel Message
     In the Pentecost-Day sermon, as the kingship of Jesus is implied and his lordship affirmed (Acts 2:30, 36), “[with] many other words [Peter] solemnly declared and exhorted them saying, ‘Be saved from this crooked generation.’ Therefore those having received his word were baptized, and on that day about 3,000 souls were added” (vv. 40-41); “the Lord added daily those who were being saved to their number” (v. 47), or to the church,” according to the Byzantine Majority Text (JB, N/KJV, RAV, WEB).
     Later, when the Samaritans “believed Philip proclaiming the gospel concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized …” (Acts 8:12) and counted among the newly established churches in the region (Acts 9:31). The Galatians were warned by Barnabas and Paul of inevitable afflictions when entering “into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22), which incorporated the churches of that area (Gal. 1:2). Paul consistently taught those in Ephesus about “the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8; 20:25), and as “fellow citizens” (Eph. 2:19) they comprised the church (Eph. 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23). In Rome he preached “the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus …” (Acts 28:23) and spent two whole years “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ …” (v. 31).
     There was only one gospel message disseminated “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8; cf. Gal. 1:8-9). To be a disciple of Jesus is to be a citizen of God’s kingdom and member of Christ’s body, his church (Col. 1:13, 18, 24). Without the kingdom, there is no King (John 18:37). Where there is no bride, there can be no Bridegroom (Rev. 19:7; 21:9). The Head cannot be detached from the body (Eph. 4:15-16). If one is to be taught about Christ in order to be “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27), surely he must be taught about the collective body/church of Christ to be “baptized into one body” (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 12:13).
The Gospel Plan of Salvation
     Simply stated, the gospel plan of salvation is our gracious God seeking to reconcile sinners to himself through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in a unified collectivity of forgiven disciples. Our response to this divine plan can be summarized as follows:
·      Hear (listen to, understand, heed) the gospel message (Mark 4:23-24; Acts 2:22, 37; 3:22) – and keep on hearing, receptively and responsively (Rom. 10:17; Eph. 4:21, 29; Phil. 4:9; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29).
·      Believe the gospel message (Acts 4:4; 18:8; 9:42) – and continue believing and increasing in faith (Rom. 3:22; 4:11, 24; 10:4; 2 Pet. 1:5-7).
·      Repent of sinful attitudes and behaviors (Acts 2:38; 3:19) – and don’t stop repenting (Acts 8:22; Rom. 6:1-18; 2 Cor. 7:9-10).
·      Confess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 10:32; 1 Tim. 6:12) – and keep on confessing (Rom. 10:9-10; 2 Cor. 9:13; Heb. 4:14; 10:23).
·      Be immersed in water for forgiveness of past sins by Christ’s blood (Acts 2:38; 8:36-39; 22:16), entering (“into”) Christ and his emblematic body, the church, the saved community (Acts 2:41-47; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Pet. 2:20-21), raised to live a new life (Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:11-13; 3:1-3).
·      Remain faithful (Acts 2:42; 14:22) as an active and devoted member of Christ’s body – universally (Eph. 3:6; 5:23; 1 Pet. 2:17) and locally (Rom. 12:3-13; 1 Cor. 12:12-27); a loyal citizen of his spiritual kingdom (Eph. 2:19; Col. 1:9-18).
     Are we committed to the whole counsel of God? May we embrace, obey, and consistently teach the gospel in its entirety, without abridgements, shortcuts, or compromise.
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Within the past twenty-five years, there has been a 7.8 percent decrease in reported membership of churches of Christ in the USA (see Carl H. Royster, ed. Churches of Christ in the United States, Nashville, TN: 21st Century Christian, 2015).
     2 Edwin Jones, in a Facebook post (30 Jan. 2016), observes: “The ‘Five Steps’ have received much attention of late. I see no way that hear (rich in theology and far from being ‘redundant’), believe, repent, confess, and being baptized can be excluded as vital aspects of the progression of saving faith. Nevertheless, I offer the following slightly amended comment I made in a recent blog as a cautionary word to myself and my brothers and sisters…. Interesting, is it not, that no one verse contains all the five steps? It seems that God, though perfectly capable of doing just that, chose to contextualize the ‘steps’ so the richness of their God given presentation might be discovered. ‘Shorthand,’ even when supported by short citations, has a way of taking on a life of its own that obscures the ‘longhand’ of the original. Though summations certainly have their place, original contexts are gold!”
     3 Ekklēsia also appears in Acts 2:47 in the Byzantine Majority Text tradition; once in reference to the assembling of Israelites (7:38), and three more times in a secular sense (19:32-41). On the etymological significance of this term, see The Church of the NT.
     4 The basileia (kingdom) of God is referenced seven times in Acts, and a whopping thirty-nine times in the Gospel of Luke! For further discussion on the biblical doctrine of the kingdom, see The Kingdom of God Part 1, and supplemental Links.
     5 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.


Related articles: Wes McAdams’ Why I’m Not Fond of the Phrase <Link> and What They Need to Know <Link>, Jack Dodgen’s Rewriting the “Steps” of Salvation <Link>, Justin Brasfield’s Why I’m a Member of the Church of Christ <Link>.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

How Preaching Has Blessed My Life

     The concept of “preaching” goes well beyond the pulpit. When the persecuted Christians driven out of Jerusalem “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4), I doubt very many pulpits were involved! Since preaching necessarily includes learning, living, serving, and communicating, what a great privilege it is (not to mention a grave responsibility!) to be a student of the Bible, an example to the brethren, a minister to those in need, and a teacher among the spiritually hungry.
     Preaching has encouraged me to be a better Christian. I realize that my greatest teaching tool is my example, which gives me extra incentive to pursue a life of faithfulness and godliness. Otherwise, my labors in God’s kingdom are in vain. I am far from perfect, so I am compelled to rely more heavily on the Lord to help me be the kind of person I ought to be.
     Preaching has helped me to be a better student of God’s word. It has provided the opportunity to study, learn, and teach the Bible every day. The admonition in James 3:1 has been a strong motivator to examine the scriptures more carefully and deeply.
     Preaching has helped me to be a better husband and father. I can’t conscientiously teach others the biblical principles of marriage and parenting if I am not practicing these myself. Moreover, as my wife and children observe my active involvement in the Lord’s work, spiritual leadership is not lacking in our home.
     Preaching has blessed my life by enabling me to serve as an instrument in God’s hand, eternally impacting the lives of those with whom I work. There is nothing about me personally that makes any significant difference, but I get to witness the spiritual transformation of precious souls by simply communicating the divine message and pointing them to Christ.
     Preaching is admittedly a challenging vocation, filled with stress, hardship, and disappointment. But these negative aspects pale into virtual insignificance when compared to the blessings afforded. It doesn’t take a spiritual giant to be a full-time preacher, but it is nearly impossible to remain spiritually dwarfed while doing it. God’s primary interest is not our comfort and convenience, but he is interested in blessing people through us and consequently blessing our lives in the process.
     “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (Luke 17:10).
-- Kevin L. Moore

Appearing in Hope & Expectation (The Jenkins Institute) 13 February 2014, <http://thejenkinsinstitute.com/blog/2014/02/13/preaching-blessed-life-8/>.

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