How Does God Make a Worker?

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ANNOUNCEMENT!!!  OUR FIRST PODCAST EVER ON THIS BLOG!

A short time ago, ten crazy saints got together to hold a conversation on the topic of “How Does God Make a Worker?“.

For those of you who may not know, my wife Mary and I have been learning to plant organic churches for the last 25 years or so.  In the beginning we had absolutely no experience and had no idea what we were doing.  But we had a vision of His purpose and a strong desire to help see that purpose be fulfilled.  So, for several years we basically experimented on God’s people!  We learned what worked and what didn’t work.  We also learned that we desperately needed some experience in genuine body life ourselves!  After all, how could we impart an experience to a group of believers that we had never experienced (in an intentional way) ourselves?

Well, very fast forward several years and we finally received that experience and training and then were sent out to plant New Testament style organic churches ourselves.  It was still very difficult but we learned much along the way.  Now, we are having the glorious privilege and honor of training others to do the same!  These are all folks who have been in one of the churches we have planted for at least three years and been fully recommended and sent to us for training by their respective churches.

The recording you are about to hear is a session with those eight new workers.  I hope that it will give you a better insight into how God calls, prepares, and sends workers into his harvest.  Enjoy!

Note: By posting this we are by no means claiming to be experts in this field!  I don’t believe anyone is.  We are all still learning and with every church plant we learn new things.  After all, our Christ is so big and so vast that we will never stop learning to experience him and know him!

The Sending – Part 4

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The Sending – Part 4

Since there is so much to say about this topic I have decided to add another part!

In the previous three posts I have shown how God calls, prepares, and sends people out for the work of building his Church. This has been shown through the history and examples we have in the New Testament scriptures. In this post I would like to draw from history to show that this “pattern” of his life has continued with groups of believers who have stood outside the religious system of “Christianity”.

Many believers have no idea that what some are calling “simple church” “house church” “organic church” has actually been happening throughout the centuries. In fact, God has always preserved a testimony to his true church. Of course, just because we call a group of Christians an organic church doesn’t mean it IS one! This needs to be made really clear because these labels are being thrown around all over the place and it’s causing lots of confusion among those seeking true organic body life. In this series of posts I am drawing from three sources:

  • The testimony of the written scriptures (mainly the New Testament)

  • The testimony of saints who have lived this way throughout the centuries

  • The testimony of saints who are currently living this way

In this post I will take short excerpts from various writings describing groups of believers throughout the centuries who have experienced the organic expression of the church in some way.

The Waldensians

Also referred to as Waldenses.

Around A.D. 59 the apostle Paul visited Italy (Syracuse, Sicily, Naples, and Rome). About five years later (64AD) when Nero began his persecution in Rome, some of the believers fled to the Italian alps. Mostly to the areas near Lyons and Turin in the western alps between Italy and France. They settled in the Alpine valleys of Piedmont, one of the most inaccessible areas around. It was very steep, lots of snow, and 12-15,000 foot peaks.

In the quiet seclusion of the mountains they had remained unaffected by the development of the man-made church systems including the Roman church. It was said of them that their whole manner of thought and life was an endeavor to hold fast to the character of original Christianity.

Their churches would send out believers in teams of two to preach Christ and establish churches. These had been called, prepared, and sent to do the Lord’s work. They were called “barbas” which means uncles in contrast to the papacy and the idea of calling other believers “father”. These “sent ones” would receive food and lodging where they went to plant new expressions of Christ (churches) according to the pattern they saw in the New Testament. The barbas chose poverty but it was considered a principal duty of each church to provide for its poor.

These Waldensians (a name used only by their enemies) called one another “brethren”.

These saints were persecuted by the Roman church for over 800 years!

Their history is one of non-stop arrests, torture, imprisonment, beatings, hangings, and burnings!

Brothers and sisters, we stand on their shoulders!

The Anabaptists

In 1522, in the city of Zurich, Switzerland, a young man named Conrad Grebel gave his life to Jesus Christ. His life radically changed and he became an avid supporter of the new reformation and the teachings and reforms of Ulrich Zwingli. Conrad quickly rose to leadership among Zwingli’s followers. However, over time it became apparent that Zwingli and Grebel had different approaches to church reform. Zwingli wanted reform but was unwilling to completely break with the control of the government to achieve them. Grebel didn’t care about what the government wanted, but only cared about God getting what He wanted.

Soon Conrad Grebel, along with his friends Felix Manz and George Blaurock, broke all ties with Zwingli and the state supported reformation in Switzerland. The city of Zurich outlawed all Christian meetings except those of Zwingli. Grebel and his young radical friends soon became the enemies of Zwingli and the state.

The new group of “radicals” grew like wild fire! After a time, Grebel left the work in Zurich to others and traveled with co-workers to surrounding cities to preach Christ and establish new communities of believers under the spiritual principles of the New Testament. They were persecuted by both the Roman church and the Reformers! Grebel, along with thousands of others, lost their lives while still in their early twenties.

These young radicals believed in a total return to the experience and practice of the New Testament church. They believed in the scriptures but did not worship them like their protestant counterparts. The Word of God for the Anabaptists was a Man! And this Man speaks through the writings of the scriptures. They were not a people of the book, but a people of the Man! They also believed in knowing Christ by an inward fellowship and abiding with Him. They also strongly believed in the centrality of Christ and had a strong sense and practice of community life.

Sisters and brothers, we stand on their shoulders!

The Little Flock in China

In the early 1900s God moved sovereignly throughout China.

He apprehended a young man by the name of Nee Shu-tsu (Watchman Nee). Watchman grew quickly in the Lord and began sharing Christ with many in his city and other surrounding villages. Soon, there were new groups of believers raised up by Nee and his young co-workers. This work spread throughout all of the coastal cities then eventually went inward when the Japanese began attacking the coastal cities. Some called them the “Little Flock” though they never adopted any name. They were heavily influenced by the Brethren in England during the 1880s with such men as John Nelson Darby, Robert Govett, D.M. Panton, G.H. Pember, and many others. Also, T. Austin-Sparks in England was a contemporary and considered a mentor by Nee.

They believed strongly in the organic expression of the church in Body life, functioning of all the members, the centrality of Christ, knowing Christ deeply and inwardly, and apostolic work in the sending out of workers to equip and establish churches. They also believed strongly in learning from the legacy of those who had gone before them throughout history.

In the 1960s several workers left China and came to the United States. These co-workers of Nee planted churches throughout the States and eventually throughout the world.

Saints, we stand on their shoulders!

Note: there have been many other groups throughout history that attempted to hold true to the apostolic pattern as seen in the New Testament scriptures. These resources will help you find out more if you are interested:

  • The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent
  • The Torch of the Testimony by John Kennedy
  • The Secret of the Strength by Peter Hoover
  • The Reformers and Their Stepchildren by Leonard Verduin

 

Stay Tuned! Next week we will present our first podcast ever on this blog!

It will include ten workers having a conversation on the topic of “How Does God Make a Worker?”

The Sending – Part 3

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Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome to part three!

In this final contribution to this extremely important and yet ignored and misunderstood topic, I hope to share some final thoughts on the more practical end of being called, prepared, and sent by the Lord Jesus Christ for His work.

The Goal and Purpose of the Sending

First of all, let me explain what I see as the goal of all sending. The goal is for the Lord’s work. But what IS the Lord’s work? Here again, this is an extremely misunderstood topic. This gross misunderstanding comes from a foundational lack of vision and revelation of God’s eternal purpose. It only stands to reason that if you do not understand the purpose of something, then you will end up abusing it. I have written quite extensively on this vast topic here. In a nutshell, God’s purpose is to have an expression of the fullness of His Son. To have an image or living expression of this gloriously full and rich Christ. This image or expression is referred to in the N.T. with many different pictures such as the Body, the Bride, the House, the City, the Vine, the New Humanity, the Community of God (or household), and many more. In other words the Church! Of course, when I use that word it is definitely not in the sense of any man-made or conceived of organization or institutional system.

In the mind of God, all roads lead to His Church!

This is the central thought of all of the scriptures. Christ and the Church.

You can easily see this if you (without religious bias) read the first two chapters of the bible (Gen. 1 & 2) and the last two chapters of the bible (Rev. 21 & 22). In Genesis you see the original purpose and intention of God for creating mankind (see Gen.1:26-28). In Revelation you see the fulfillment of that eternal purpose as typified in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21 & 22).

So, considering this (and much more) we are definitely not stretching things at all when we make this statement: God’s work is to build His Church!

There is no other work of God. All “works” of God will lead to (in some way) the building and edification of His Church.

If you read the narrative story of the New Testament carefully (with spiritual eyes) you will see that this is true. God’s goal is that the all things would be summed up or headed up in Christ and this takes place in and through the Church (Eph 1: 9,10,22,23).

I know that some of you may be saying, well Milt, what about evangelism, and missions, and healing, and miracles, and helping the poor? Well, I would say that these are all good works but that they are to take place in and through the authentic expression of the Life of Christ on earth. In other words, the Church! Read the book of Acts people! It is the story of the early Church moving in and through the Spirit. It is the flow of the life of Christ out through His Body to the people caught up in the world system.

It is not the story of independent people doing independent things in an individualistic way!

It is the story of the corporate Christ (the Body) living and moving by His glorious life!

Wow! What a difference from most of what we have seen!

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1Co 3:6-11)

Here, we see that Paul very nicely breaks things down for us concerning the Lord’s work. There are those who plant and there are those who water. First of all, what are they planting and watering? The Church! That’s very obvious from the context. So, in general, we now can see that there are two aspects of the Lord’s work; planting and watering.

Planting and Watering

Paul tells us that he planted and Apollos watered. By looking at the ministries of these two brothers we can understand what that means.

  • Paul, a planter, a wise master builder: Paul and his companions basically did two things. They preached Christ and planted churches. Of course, it was a different situation they had then from what we have here in the United States and the western world. But in some ways it is very similar. Paul was sent (in the beginning) to the Jews. Or, we could say, the religious folks. This caused problems because these people had a mindset and filters filled with religious baggage that hindered them from beholding the living Christ (see 2 Cor. 3). So, in that sense, he had a similar situation that we face in modern America. However, later he did go almost exclusively to the Gentiles and that was more like a situation we have in some of the present third world nations that are “heathen”. However, the goal was always to bring about the Church of the living God in different localities. Evangelism, healing, miracles, etc. had a purpose… that purpose was always to bring about the Body of Christ!
  • Apollos, a waterer, a teacher: This brother had a real gifting in the area of teaching the Body of Christ (see Acts 18:22). Paul would send him places where he had planted churches so that he could encourage the saints through teaching the scriptures (see 1 Cor 16:12). Sometimes, this “watering” is simply for others to come and encourage the saints in a new or struggling church. We have seen this many times in our own experience. It is very powerful and very much needed! Some believers from one church can go and encourage (water) those in another church.

So we can see clearly that there are two general areas of the work; planting and watering. Notice with me that these “pictures” all have to do with Life!

Now, we will see that there are three areas (or stages) of the Lord’s preparation for a worker.

  • The wilderness

  • The community life

  • The training

We can clearly see all three of these in the life of Jesus and in the life of Paul of Tarsus.

Of course, in the life of Jesus as the eternal Son of God he had already experienced “community life” and “training” before eternity. He received this experience by living in the community life of the Godhead. However, he still needed to have the “wilderness experience”. As a man he had never experienced an emptying of himself and a lowering of himself. He had never experienced the dryness of the desert before. He had also never experienced community life with humans before. Of course, he had much rich experience living community inside of the Triune God, but now he needed to share and live that same life, that divine life, with other humans! This, he lived out for over three years with the twelve and others. And then, as he had been trained by the Father, so he trained these others to go out into the world and do his work.

Paul also went through a similar experience. First, he had his “desert” experience when he departed to Arabia (Gal. 1:15-18). Apparently, he received his revelation of the gospel in Arabia and Damascus. Then, he received his community life experience in Damascus and in Antioch. Scholars don’t totally agree as to the length of time Paul spent as a brother in the churches but they mostly agree that it was around 11-14 years. The main point here is that he was not a new believer or a novice in the things of the Lord when he was sent out! The same is true of Barnabas, Silas, and all of the others. It appears that Paul was mostly trained by the twelve in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:17) and by Barnabas in Antioch (Acts 13:1). Barnabas had many years experience in the Jerusalem church and then some in Antioch.

The life of the local church being a “training ground” for workers before they are sent out is an almost completely forgotten and abandoned practice. Of course, the work itself (as we are describing it here) is also almost a completely abandoned practice! It is usually deemed that if someone feels called to “the work” of the Lord they must go into another institutional situation called a bible college. Of course, there may be some value to that, but in reality there is absolutely no substitution for the authentic community life of the organic Body of Christ! How can you impart an experience that you yourself have never had? Believe me, I am speaking from years of experience when I say that it simply doesn’t work.

Training

Then, we see both Jesus and Paul training new workers. Of course, Jesus trained the twelve for over three years. But notice how he trained them. He sat down with them and taught them how to study the bible! Right? NOT!!!

He simply lived by the life of his Father right in front of them!

They got to see how divine life is lived out in and through a human vessel. They got to see how divine life responds to all kinds of situations in the human experience such as: popularity, notoriety, misunderstanding, rejection, opposition, persecution, scorn, ridicule, and ultimately crucifixion. They got to see Him plant the first Church in and among themselves!

Paul also trained new workers. This happened while he was planting the church in Ephesus. He brought several brothers to Ephesus who were in the churches that he had already planted.

  • Titus from Antioch

  • Timothy from Lystra

  • Gaius from Derbe

  • Sopater from Berea

  • Aristarchus from Thessalonica

  • Secundus from Thessalonica

  • Two others added later from Ephesus: Tychicus and Trophimus

Of course, he had taken Timothy with him on his travels after his third visit to Galatia. It is also believed by many scholars that these men went on to plant churches throughout Asia Minor. Some of these churches are listed in the book of Revelation chapters 1-3 and Colossians.

The Sending

As we have already seen, the actual sending out of workers into his harvest is not solely an individual matter. It is something that is done by the Holy Spirit AND the Church! When these believers were sent out it was because they were not loner, independent individualists! They were loved, supported, and prayed for by the saints in the churches.

Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.” (Act 13:1-4)

Some Resources on This Topic:

Finding Organic Church by Frank Viola

The Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola

The Church and the Work by Watchman Nee

The Glorious Church by Watchman Nee

The Acts of the Apostles by F.F. Bruce

Theology for the Community of God by Stanley Grenz

The Stewardship of the Mystery by T. Austin-Sparks

The Community Life of God by Milt Rodriguez

The Sending – Part 2

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The Sending – Part 2

This is the second part of a three part series of posts. If you have not already read the first part, you may do so by clicking here.

In the Name (cont’d)

Jesus not only had the audacity to claim that he was sent by the Father, he also claimed to have come in the name of the Father. This is so much more intense! But we must realize that the sending, if it is a spiritual reality, will always be “in the name”. So, in order to understand sending, we must also understand “in the name”.

  • In the name” is NOT some kind of mantra that we are tack onto the end of a prayer.

  • In the name” is NOT a magic formula that we use to get special attention from God so we can be assured that our prayers are answered.

  • In the name” is NOT some kind of religious slogan that we can use to find favor with God.

In the Name is something extremely powerful for God to fulfill His eternal purpose!

In the first century when someone claimed to be coming “in the name” of someone else it had some depth to it. But when the Son came claiming to have been sent by the Father in HIS name it meant so much more. Here is a quick and simple formula to remember what it means:

The Name = The Person

That is quite literal. The name is the same as the person. Coming in the name of someone is the same thing as the sender actually coming himself. The “sendee” or the one sent is the SAME as the one sending. THEY ARE ONE! The one sent carries the same authority, character, and life as the one sending him. But this only applies inasmuch as the Sendee and the Sender share the same mind and life. Note: I realize that there is no such word as “sendee” but this made-up word here seems to apply very nicely! :-)

Notice with me that there are many things that happen “in the name” besides being sent in the name.

* You can receive a prophet in the name of a prophet (or righteous man).

“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.” (Mat 10:41)

* You can baptize in the name.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mat 28:19)

* You can believe into the name.

“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Joh 3:18)

* You can speak or teach in the name.

And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” (Act 4:18)

* You can pray in the name.

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

(Joh 14:13)

It’s very obvious from these verses that “in the name” is something much more than a phrase we tack onto the end of a prayer! In the name means in the Person, in Christ, in the Spirit. So much so that if you pray in the name it is actually Christ Himself who is originating, initiating, and executing that prayer.

So, this means that when someone is sent by God he is actually coming as totally representing and expressing God. It’s really the same as God coming Himself! The Son was sent in the name of the Father. And we know that everything the Son said and everything the Son did came from the Father Himself. (see John 5:19,20; John 6:57; John 14:10; John 15:5)

In the name means by and in and one with another life that is dwelling within you!

The Sending is Corporate

One thing that we must realize here is that Jesus Christ was not only sent by the Father but he was also sent by the Holy Spirit.

“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED”

(Luk 4:18)

It’s important for us to see that the Lord Jesus was sent out by a community, that is, the community of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit). He was not only sent out by that community but he was also sent out with that community! The Father and the Spirit were always with him and always guiding and empowering him. He told Phillip that if he had seen him then he had seen the Father (John 14:8-10). The divine community (the Three-in-One) really are one! And They (as a community) sent the Son to the earth to fulfill God’s eternal purpose.

Sending – Level Two

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

(Mat 10:40)

Now we can see the second tier or level of sending. Not only was Jesus Christ sent by the Godhead but he also sent others. He sent the twelve.

And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.” (Luk 9:2)

He also sent out seventy others.

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luk 10:1-2)

You may be thinking that the sending is the end product. No so! Actually, in some sense, it is but the beginning. However, there is much that is before the beginning!

The Calling and the Preparation

Before the sending there is the calling and the preparation. You could say that it’s a three step process. This is first seen in the life of our Lord, since He is the “Prototype” for all who would come after him. First, God calls.

The Calling

When was Jesus Christ called by God? The answer is simple: before time and creation! He was called in eternity past from within the Triune God. After (which is a word that doesn’t really apply when you are speaking from within the eternals!) the Godhead conceived His eternal plan and purpose then He called the eternal Son to fulfill that purpose by being incarnated as human flesh (Eph. 3:11,12). This calling is obviously very important for without it there will be no preparation and no sending forth.

People have asked me, “how do I know that I am called?”. Actually, there are two aspects of this “calling” that we are talking about. In the basic sense, all believers are called.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Mat 22:14)

… to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 1:7)

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-30)

but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1Co 1:24)

There are many other references to our calling as believers. If you are in Christ then you are both called and chosen by him! This is the general aspect of the calling that applies to all true believers in Christ. But there is also a more specific calling that has to do with the work of God. We will look into that in the third part of this series. If you are called to his work then it will not leave you no matter what. One of the ways to know you are called to the work is that it will not go away. You may try to make it go away, but it will not leave you for the duration of your life.

That applies to both the general and the specific calling.

The Preparation

The problem here is that many people (and organizations) try to skip this all important step. I don’t know how many times I have heard churches, missionary boards, etc. tell young people that since they feel called to the Lord’s work they need to get out there right now! The need is great! The world is going to hell in a hand basket! You need to get out there! The problem is these people probably don’t even know the Lord very well and almost definitely don’t have any experience in authentic biblical community life. So why are we sending them? To see our conversions lists go up? To get more money for our annual budgets? Of course, none of this has even entered the mind of God as seen throughout the scriptures!

Actually, God takes his time (years!) preparing individuals for his work. What about Moses? Forty years on the backside of the desert. What about David? Being chased and persecuted for years by an maniac king. What about Paul? About 10-14 years of true body life in the Lord’s house before he was sent out by the church in Antioch with Barnabas.

What about Jesus Christ? How about an eternity living inside of the Godhead learning to lay down his life and receive his only life from the Father in the Spirit!

Why is preparation so important? It’s because during that time God is working on the individual’s character to make them safe for God’s people! A person may have many gifts but it is their character that will make or break them in the Lord’s work. And that character of Christ is only worked into an individual as they learn to know him intimately, turning from the soul-life and the self to behold the living Christ inside of them! This takes some years. This takes the work and way of the cross in the life of the believer.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

(2Co 3:18)

According to the contextual story of the New Testament, the environment to receive this training and preparation is the local body of believers. There is no exception to this! All of those who were sent out were first prepared by living in an authentic community of saints first.

Stay tuned for the next part of The Sending to be released soon!

The Sending – Part 1

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The Sending – Part 1

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” (Joh 17:18)

This post is (hopefully) the first of a three part article on the mind of God concerning “sending”. This is, from my perspective, a very much misunderstood, misapplied, and downright ignored subject. For example, you dear reader, how many messages have you heard or read on the subject of God’s sending? Usually this topic is related to the modern concept of “missions” which literally has very little to do with “the sending” we see happening in the contextual story of the New Testament. Therefore, I believe that this series of blog posts will help to fill the void and (hopefully) will bring some light and understanding to believers who have not had that before.

The Sending of the Eternal Son

Most Christians are familiar with the fact that the eternal Son of God was sent into time and space by His Father.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John 1:1-4)

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:12-14)

We call this the incarnation. But there is more to it than just that.

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

(Mat 10:40)

Here we see two “levels” of sending. First, the Father sent the Son. Then, the Son sent His disciples. It’s very clear in the context that Jesus was here speaking to his disciples. Read the whole chapter and you will see that he is speaking to the twelve.

I don’t think that any sane believer would argue the point that the Son was sent by the Father. The question we need to ask is: what does it mean to be sent by God?

Joh_5:36 “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish–the very works that I do–testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.

Joh_5:37And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.

Joh_5:38You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.

Joh_6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

Joh_6:38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

Joh_6:39This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

Joh_6:44No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

Joh_6:57As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.

Joh_7:16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.

Joh_7:18He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Joh_7:28 Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.

Joh_7:29I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.

This is just a very small sampling of the verses about the Son being sent by the Father in the Gospel of John alone! Obviously, Jesus held being sent by the Father in very high regard! We must keep in mind here that Jesus had some major hurdles to jump over pertaining to the Jewish mindset. Here are just a few:

  1. The Triune God – the nation of Israel did not have the revelation of a God who is revealed as three Persons! They believed that God is one Person, not three who are one. That was some thing totally new as far as the Jewish nation was concerned. Remember that they were not even allowed to mention the sacred name of God let alone to call him Father.  The fact that He would have a Son was actually blasphemous to many in the first century.
  2. The Son of God – by Jesus stating that he has been sent by the Father strongly implied that he was the Son of God and was divine Himself. This was a major problem in the Jewish mind. But yet he kept telling them over and over again that he had been sent by the Father.
  3. Claiming to be the Messiah – here was another major issue. All of Israel was waiting for the coming of the Messiah, but this poor son of a carpenter just didn’t seem to fit the bill in their list of expectations.

When the Son presented himself as being sent by the Father he was doing so to validate what he said and did to the house of Israel. However, the very concept (reality) of a Father who is divine sending a Son who is divine, blew the minds who were listening to those words. Of course the divine Son did this on purpose so that only those who had eyes to see and ears to hear would understand. Only those who were “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3) would see and have the kingdom. It was only those who would empty themselves who could receive. And this brings us to one of the major aspects of The Sending.

The Sent One Must Be Received by Those to whom He is Sent!

This receiving requires an emptying of those to whom he is being sent. If the potential receivers are haughty, puffed up with pride, and full of themselves, then the sent one can never be received. The Sent One is the Son of God Himself! And yet how many rejected He who was sent from God? Why did most of the Jewish nation reject him? Because he did not live up to their expectations! They had major veils (filters) that were hindering them from seeing this One. They were looking for a Messiah who would overthrow the Roman government and take physical, political, and military control to place the nation of Israel into the seat of power. This poor carpenter’s son from a slum just didn’t fill that bill at all!

Many Sent and Many Rejected

Of course, the Lord Jesus was not the first one to be sent to the house of Israel. There were many prophets sent before Him.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'” (Mat 23:37-39)

Wow! What a powerful statement made by our glorious Lord!

from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’”

Can you apprehend this with me? The majority of Israel was not able to see (receive) Christ because they would not welcome He who came in the name of the Lord. Here, we not only see the sending but we also see the name of the Lord! In the next part of this series we will delve into what it means to be sent in the name of the Lord and many other aspects of The Sending!

Stay tuned for the next part of The Sending to be released soon!

Don’t Pray for the Lost to be Saved – its not scriptural! (part 2: Jesus)

This is the second in a two part series. If you haven’t read the first half, please do so now.

There are two spiritual truths that are the foundation of why there is little emphasis in the New Testament on praying for the lost to be saved.

Jesus didn’t pray that people would respond because he knew that people were desperate for Him even if they didn’t realize it. In Matthew 9: 37-38, Jesus commanded his disciples to pray for not for salvation for the lost, but rather for more workers in the fields: “the fields are white, pray that The Lord would send more workers into the fields.”

Lets consider Jesus’s “evangelistic mission” when he sent out the 72 in Luke 10 and the 12 disciples in Matt 10. When he instructed the 72 and the 12, did he give them extremely specific instructions? Yes. Did those instructions include telling them to pray? No! He told them that he had given them authority, just like he has been given authority for the benefit of the church (Eph 1:22-23). He just sent the workers into the field and knew that those the Father has called will respond.

As an ekklesia that is healthy grows and operates in unity, it will naturally produce workers that will be sent out to plant other ekklesias. This is the example in scripture, and His pattern still operates in the same manner as it did back then. I am living proof of this, as well as the other trainees currently with Milt.

Additionally, imagine if all the praying for the lost that we do suddenly turned into praying for more workers in the fields, as Jesus instructed his disciples? Would that not lead to more of the lost actually hearing the good news? Would that not also make our prayers more personal and more concrete in their application? I think they would.

Lets get back to Jesus’s view of evangelism.
John 14-17 is a window into Jesus’ heart. Its the speech and prayer he gave to his disciples the night of his arrest. I consider this his “deathbed” words, and just like someone in the hospital on their deathbed, whatever they say in that moment is what is truly in their hearts. So lets focus on his prayer in ch 17. Amongst other issues, he prays for you and me: future believers, and I will include that portion of his prayer here:

JOHN 17:20-23 I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one_as you are in me Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. [after this he prays again for the disciples]

Notice that he didn’t pray that they would have sound theology, or great ministries, or even great evangelism. He prayed that we would be ONE. Why? Because Jesus knew that the church that is most reflective of him would be the church that has the most true conversions. Right there Jesus just displayed his heart for the church AND his plan for reaching the lost. He said it clearly himself in verse 23: when we are in unity, the world (i.e. the lost) will believe. This is true because in some mysterious way, He knew that unity and oneness was an extremely effective at winning the lost. I’m sure there are multiple reasons for this, but one of them is that some people are longing for a taste of Heaven, and will convert simply on the “heavenly taste of the Godhead” that unity provides.

Imagine this: what if all the efforts we as believers have made towards evangelism in the past 100 yrs was instead put into becoming one heart and one mind? I GUARANTEE you that we would be more plentiful harvest of souls than we have had.

Lets also look at what we label as “the Lord’s Prayer” in Matt 6 {Which, by the way, is not the Lord’s Prayer, thats in John 17. In Matt 6 he gives instructions on how we should pray}. Read those instructions from Him on how to pray; is there any hint of evangelistic tone in it? I say no. The only line that could even be construed to touch upon reaching the lost is “let your kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven” however, lets remember that Jesus also said “the kingdom is within you.” The Kingdom of God does not exist in an unbeliever, but only in believers, so I think it is fair to interpret that line of his instruction to be interpreted in the following manner: “I know the kingdom is in my people, but let them exhibit the qualities of Heaven-love, unity, compassion, forgiveness, etc- to a greater degree” because Jesus understood that if his people exhibit the kingdom of God in their own lives, some people will be drawn to it.

Let me share with you my personal journey: the great majority of my family (including extended family, roughly 40 people) do not know The Lord, and most of my grandparents have died without knowing him. So don’t think that I’m not intimately concerned with the lost getting saved…but I must subject my paradigms to the example seen in scripture in Paul as well as the commands that Jesus gave.

Also, we must remember that in reality it is only those that the father draws (John 6:44) that will be saved, also, lets remember another unpleasant truth: that most people will not come to a saving knowledge of The Lord (John 7: 13-14). Of course, he also said that when he would be lifted up, he would draw all men to himself (John 12:32).

I am NOT telling you not to pray for the lost. “What???” you say? I’ll repeat that: I am NOT telling you not to pray for the lost. My goal here is just to give you information. What I recommend you do is to take this info, research it yourself, and allow Jesus to reframe your thoughts and actions, not just some blogger you’ll never meet.

Lastly, I final word from my heart: I only desire for the Bride of Christ to love unabashedly and worship with full abandon. If anything in this post is not Truth, scrap it. I have thought of the subject matter for over 10 yrs, and other than telling my friend mentioned above about it, this is the first time I’ve really shared. I would love for everyone to know the King, but thats just not going to happen, and we must be realistic about it (Matt 7: 13-14).

In all of this, don’t just take my word. Look for yourself :)
your brother,
Thomas

Don’t Pray for the Lost to be Saved – its not scriptural! (part 1: Paul)

By Thomas Fortson

The title of this post is not a clever trick to get you to read it: it really isn’t scriptural to pray for the lost to be saved.  I will try to show you this from scripture, and all I ask is that you think objectively about what this post says and allow Holy Spirit to lead you into all Truth.  This is a two part series: this one covers Paul and the next is about Jesus’ teachings on this subject.

[A disclaimer: I am NOT speaking of when a nonbeliever approaches a believer and asks them to pray for something; that is certainly a godly thing to do.  I am strictly speaking of believers praying for nonbelievers to become believers.]

“Praying for the unsaved is clearly scriptural!” you say?  Really?  Prove it.  You will find it is actually much more difficult to make a Biblical case for it than you think.

Think about this: if praying for the lost was so important, why didn’t Paul instruct the churches to do it in his letters?  I extoll you to verify this yourself.  Prayer was clearly part of his life and ministry based upon his letters, but exactly what did he pray?  In his letters, when he does describe how he prays for them, or when he asks for prayer, or even when he writes out his prayers in the letter itself, he never (that I have read) asks for prayer for the lost.  Think about that.

Lets go through some examples.

When he asks for the Ephesian church to pray for his evangelistic messages, he does has for prayer, but not that people would respond: he asks that his words would be clear.

Eph 6:18-19 “Pray for Gods holy people and pray that I would proclaim the message clearly.”  Ephesians was one of the last letters he wrote; if praying for the lost was something he endorsed, wouldn’t this be the perfect place to include it?

Lets consider the last letter Paul wrote: 2 Timothy.  In it he basically gives Timothy instructions on how to lead the churches in times of crisis etc…   In 1:8 he encourages him to proclaim the truth without being ashamed, but nothing about prayer.

When I was first realizing this, I did a study of the New Testament and could only find one clear example: when Paul is before Herod, he alludes to praying for it: Acts 26:29.

Paul is speaking before King Agrippa and starts evangelizing to him and Agrippa rebuffs him and Paul responds “…whether quickly or not [for you to convert], I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”  So thats it.  Thats the only example I came up with in all of the New Testament.  (I could have overlooked something, and I’d appreciate it if someone else could provide one…)  Given the amount of text that is given to prayer and the instructions of both Paul and Jesus, it would seem that Paul’s prayers for them was not nearly as frequent as his prayers for the churches.  Also, lets not forget that this was an event that Paul had anticipated for a long time, and was likely more focused on it than his daily witnessing activities.  In that sense, he would be more likely to ‘branch out’ from his typical pattern.  [It’s the same argument that surrounds whether or not Christians are to pray prior to every meal.  Simply because Jesus prayed before the last passover meal, and gave thanks when feeding the 4/5,000, that doesn’t mean that he prayed every single time physical food entered his body.]

I told a brother my thoughts on this years ago, and his response was: “Thomas, that means we don’t pray for the great commission…” implying that he disagreed with me because it was too ludicrous to imagine not praying for something so important.  To this argument, I have two things to say. 1. the “great commission” is the name we have given to Jesus’ last words to the 120 before he ascended and not what Jesus himself entitled it…also, the point of this statement has been overblown and misconstrued (see blog entitled the great assumption).  2. Even if you disagree with reason #1 and the other blog entry, think of it like this: its not that I think we shouldn’t pray for evangelism, its that I think we should pray DIFFERENTLY than we traditionally have been, to greater reflect how the Kingdom operates and how Jesus displayed.

In the second half of this 2-blog series, I focus on Jesus and his prayers and how he instructed his disciples to evangelize and pray.  Stay tuned :)

Thomas.
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