The Apostle Paul: Partnership in Evangelism and Mission
Movements in Partnerships:
I have not yet met a church or ministry organisation that does not have an innate desire to move people along some form of the continuum toward maturity in Christ. The hard truth is, though, that most churches and ministry organisations do not have an existing plan on how to move people forward in their faith and in their ministry involvement to become multipliers in ministry and not only maintenance keepers. Many have written about one possible cause – a discipleship deficit – which continues to rob evangelicals in particular of missional people serving the purposes of God on a timely fashion. My diagram below, entitled the Partnership Matrix, illustrates the movement of people toward involvement and multiplication. In this article, I will explore the various stages in the process toward multiplication and unpack several ministry inhibitors that remain as obstacles for Believers in moving to the next stage of their growth in their conceptualisation, articulation, involvement in the missio Dei.
Most people that have grown up in evangelical churches around the world would appreciate the centrality of the Word and the quintessence of the atonement of Christ to the Christian faith and a need for repentance and conversion. These are important themes in the evangelical discourse. Many, however, would have had a warped understanding of mission and evangelism, believing that these tasks were either for the professional, gifted or were to be in the realm of the pastorate. In other words, there was no responsibility for these central aspects of the Christian faith. This has led to the current inertia evangelicals have experienced in church life in recent decades and a lack of engagement with their communities. Missions is for the missionary and evangelism is for the evangelist, distilling the role of Christians in the West to pew warming and cheque writing!
Unaware to Informed:
Informed to Interested:
Interested to Concerned:
Concerned to Engaged:
Engaged to Multiplying:
|Information||Prayer||Short-term involvement||Ministry Opportunity||Ownership|
|Testimonies||Relational Connection||Training course||Mentorship||Commitment|
|Exposure||Biblical Teaching||Missionary visits||From programs and strategy to culture|
There is an evident deficit of discipleship in so many of our churches today, and along with this comes a weak, somewhat superficial, uninformed Christian faith that is prone to Marcionism on the one hand or misdirected activism on the other. The New Mood can be found in bestsellers like The Shack with its claims that “The Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules” (197), God doesn’t need to punish sin (120), and the biblical portrayal of God’s justice is caricatured as an blood-thirsty God who runs around killing people all the time (119). The New Mood is squeamish about hell and uncomfortable with God’s wrath. The New Mood envisions a Christianity where the attribute of God’s love eclipses all other attributes, especially God’s justice and power. The New Mood tells the Christian story not first of all (or at all) as good news about a Substitute who saves us from the wrath of God, but as a message which means to inspire us to live a life of sacrifice and shalom.
Acts 17 example.
In order for Christians to move from informed to interested in ministry and mission, pastors and church leaders need to overcome complacency– acceptance of the status quo– not rocking the boat. “A feeling of being satisfied with how things are, and not wanting to try to make them better.” That is what Webster tells us that complacency is, and when we associate that with our walk with Christ, it seems a little frightening, as well as being right where Satan wants us to be. If we convince ourselves that we have reached a point of satisfaction in which we are comfortable with our faith and do not feel the need to move any further toward pleasing God and getting out of our comfort zone, we have lost the battle, and have been deceived by the Enemy. When we believe that our spiritual life plays second fiddle to OUR life, we have been defeated because complacency is the most dangerous place we can be as a believer. This is where we become lazy; this is where we become lukewarm; this is where we are deceived.
There are many well-meaning Christians who are not complacent, they often see the brokenness and immense need in our world, yet are not moved in their hearts to become concerned with gospel ministry. Many are still distracted by the many things in the world. “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.” This is what Paul wrote to Philippi in Philippians 1:21-22. Seeing the commitment and the drive to work and glorify the Lord is nothing new, and we also see it in Galatians 5:24 when he tells us “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there.”
This is probably where most goes wrong in relation to mission and ministry. All other barriers previously presented have been overcome, yet this one of frustration often leads people to disengage and allow life’s busyness to distract them for a season. What are the most common frustration people experience:
- Lack of vision or purpose
- Critical spirits
Partnership in the gospel is a marvellous thing, it is a necessary endeavour, yet it can also be hurtful and harmful instead of helpful. Our role as Christian leaders is not to create or foster dependency, but rather to multiply ourselves and empower others for ministry applying the principle found in 2 Timothy 2:2: “2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”
The role of those serving as leaders and pastors in the church is to equip the body of Christ for works of service, not hog all the work to themeselves. Each of us needs to be committed to this end if we are to see any significant change in our world. DH