The Missing Ingredient #5 – Apostolic Evangelism #39

In the early church we see that reproduction was a central part of the life of the Church. In Acts 19 it states that every person in Asia heard the Gospel through the people of the church in Ephesus (Acts 19:10). As a result the Church grew and the Kingdom expanded.

An apostolic perspective is that as disciples are to go and make more disciples – so churches are to plant more churches. It is the principle of multiplication and reproduction. This concept is lacking in the Church today. Either individual Christians are not involved in “going into all the world and making disciples” or the local church is not reproducing and planting new churches or both. It is regretful that most believers today are not even thinking of “seeking and saving the lost.” And, instead of planning to plant new churches most existing churches are dreaming of becoming a mega-church or a multi-campus organization.

The Bible states that healthy disciples will reproduce and there will be more disciples. We are called by Jesus to be fruitful – disciples birthing new disciples, five-fold ministering training and mentoring the next generation of leaders and five-fold ministers, and churches birthing new, autonomous expressions of the church. Churches should have a vision for planting new churches. Reflecting the foundational principle of Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and mu.” Reproduction and being sent out to reproduce is a core apostolic value.

One of the weaknesses of many of our evangelistic efforts today is a lack of the supernatural. Out approach, whether we realize it or not, relies heavily on either intellectual arguments or emotional appeals. As a result our converts often have a deficient foundation. Those who have been reached by intellectual arguments tend to be “cerebral Christians,” with little passion for knowing The Lord or sharing Him with others. Those reached by emotional appeals, on the other hand, often become addicted to continual emotional fixes in order to feel saved.

The early apostles were very aware that the quality of their message would often determine the quality of their converts. Paul told the Corinthians of his concern that their faith would rest on a firm foundation: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Paul understood that if people were persuaded to become Christians because of his eloquence or ability to stir their emotions, their foundation would be flawed. Instead, he wanted their faith to rest “on God’s power.”

Some would try to turn this into an anti-intellectual argument, but that was not Paul’s intention at all. He did not see the Gospel as a mystical or emotional philosophy but as a verifiable truth. For that reason, we are told in several places that Paul ‘reasoned’ with those he shared the Gospel with (Acts 17:2, 18:19)

Yet Paul and the other early apostles realized that conversion is a matter of the heart and the will, not just the intellect. Echoing the message of John the Baptist and Jesus, they challenged people to ‘repent,’ which required a change of heart and a resulting change of conduct. Mindful of Jesus’ parable of the Sower, the apostles understood the danger of pressuring people into ‘fast conversions,’ where the Gospel seed springs up quickly but soon withers.

Most importantly, the apostles recognized that conversion is a supernatural occurrence, not something we can just talk people into. Conversion is a new birth, being transformed into a new creature (John 3:1-8, 2 Corinthians 5:17). It means passing from death to life, from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13). Though today we tend to emphasize everyone’s free choice in coming to Jesus, He said that people can’t truly come to Him unless the Father draws them (John 6:44). Because of this, salvation is not a matter of human effort but is wholly based on the grace and mercy of God.

How does your brand of evangelism compare with the perspective of the early apostles? Some would argue that there is no ‘right’ way to evangelize, and to some extend that is very true. Throughout the pages of Scripture and Church history, a variety of methods of sharing the Gospel have borne good fruit.

Nevertheless, wise harvesters will not be haphazard. They will maintain an apostolic outlook, constantly evaluating their fruit by the objectives presented in Scriptures. Are we seeing quality converts, radically devoted to Christ and full of the Holy Spirit? Are our converts becoming true disciples, church members, and ministers? Do our methods succeed in reproducing not only individual Christians, but also new churches?

Even though God can use various methods, it would be wrong to conclude that methods don’t matter. We each need to do a “reality check.” If year after year we are employing the same methods, and yet not seeing genuine apostolic fruit, we may well ask whether or not we should change methods?

The Missing Ingredient #4 – Apostolic Evangelism #38

We are looking at the missing ingredients in the traditional evangelism we see today in the church. To do so we are looking at what transpired in the early church as recorded in the book of Acts and elsewhere in the New Testament. We have looked at “the apostolic perspective,” “the need to focus on true “converts,” and the fact that the goal in evangelism is to “make disciples.” Today, let’s look at two other key factors in biblical and apostolic evangelism.

The early church under the leadership of the apostles saw that evangelism was to lead to more “church members.” One of the biggest criticisms of evangelism today is that many of the apparent converts never end up becoming a part of the church. This would have perplexed the early apostles, for their converts were expected to be knit together with other believers. We are told that after Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, “about three thousand were added to them” (Acts 2:41). Then at the end of the description of the Jerusalem Church in Acts 2:42-47, a glimpse is given into the apostolic perspective on evangelism: “And The Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Those who were being saved were clearly expected to be ‘added to the church.’ This “membership’ is more than just having a name in a church directory; it is always a functional relationship of nurture, accountability, and service (ministry).

Secondly, from the apostolic perspective, each believer is to be involved in some kind of ministry. “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10). Paul confirms this interpretation.

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

One of the reasons the Early Church was so effective in evangelism was that every Christians was participating in the Great Commission. Conversions were not happening only in crusades or church services but daily, as an outgrowth of the witness of ordinary Christians. The discipleship process was not complete until a believer was brought to maturity and equipped for “the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).

More next time… Updates of my apostolic trip into the mountains of Ohio, United States of America can be found on the Facebook page for Ralph Howe Ministries – updates numerous times daily

The Missing Ingredients #3- Apostolic Evangelism #37

Yesterday we looked at the missing ingredient of making true converts and disciples of The Lord Jesus as contrasted with simply saying a sinner’s prayer and becoming a cultural Christian and/or a carnal Christian. Let’s focus a bit today on the word “disciple.”

The apostolic perspective knows nothing of converts who are not also disciples. It was expected that every true Christian would become a serious and committed disciple of Christ. The early Church would have been baffled by many of our common testimonies today:
“I accepted Jesus as my Saviour in 1990, but I didn’t accept Him as my Lord untol 1995.”
“I gave my heart to Jesus in high school, but I didn’t start to really follow Him until I was out of college.”
“I became a Christian in the army,but I didn’t become a disciple until years later.”

The apostolic perspective understands the Great Commission in terms bigger than conversion alone. While Jesus said in Mark 16:15 to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,” the commission in Matthew’s Gospel is to “go and make DISCIPLES of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19). Until a convert becomes a committed disciple, the job of evangelism is not done.

So, as a result, part of the apostolic perspective on evangelism and seeking and saving the lost involves also designing a strong discipleship journey for the new concerts and thus disciples. The local church must design the steps on the journey to becoming a mature, reproducing disciple so that a new believer is aware of what is now expected of them and sees the Christian faith as a life-long journey of discovery. The discipling process needs to be well thought out, designed to be culturally relevant, and involve both bring the new believer to maturity as a disciple as well as training and equipping them to be reproducing believers who are contributing to the expansion of the Kingdom on a daily basis.

Until a local church has prayerfully thought through this journey and begun to implement steps to actually bringing those already involved into full maturity enjoying the life that is their’s “in Christ” and thus setting in motion the process for those just entering into the Kingdom as new believers – until this is established The Lord will not add to the local church those who are being saved because the local church is not ready and prepared to care for these new believers.

A good place to start is to determine what a mature disciple would look like. In other words, determine what your end product is suppose to look like and then work backwards to the entry point in the journey and decide which steps are needed to bring about the desired end result. Often we use terms like “disciple” and never really define and establish what we mean by these terms. Thus we end up with a process or a journey that is vague and ineffective and that does not enable us to achieve what we have set out to do.

The local church, in general, has much to do to prepare themselves to enter into the harvest field that is ripe and ready – and to be effective once they enter into the work of the Church as commanded by Jesus.

The Missing Ingredients #2- Apostolic Evangelism #36

Without trying to be critical of anyone’s methods of evangelism, let’s take a look at some biblical principles. The early apostles saw evangelism as more than a meeting where you invited unsaved friends to come, hear the Gospel, and get saved. It was an everyday lifestyle. It was how they lived and what they lived for. Jesus said, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). He did not say that we would “do” – He said that we would “be” witnesses. A big difference. So, their main emphasis was on training and equipping each and every believer to have an evangelistic lifestyle. To be contagious Christians.

The role of the five-fold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher (Ephesians 4:11) is to equip the people of God to do the work of God – to be witnesses. (Ephesians 4:12) Of course, the main training for evangelism will be done by the five-fold evangelists. Evangelists who never train and motivate others for ministry are missing out on an important aspect of their job description. In fact, one would be right to wonder if they were truly five-fold in their ministry as the task of all five-fold ministers is to “equip” and not just to do the ministry.

The first thing we note about evangelism in the early church that is “missing” today is the fact that people were “true converts.” Not just believers, followers, fans, or Christians but true converts. 1 Peter 4:18 speaks of fainthearted converts who are “scarcely saved.” The early apostles were concerned that the converts have a solid foundation, not merely saying a token ‘sinner’s prayer,’ but truly turning from darkness to light, from Satan’s domain to the Kingdom of God.

As Peter told the crowd at Pentecost, apostles understand that genuine conversion includes being “saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). They also recognized the importance of converts being baptized in water and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38). This, of course, after they are first convicted by the Holy Spirit of their sin, experienced godly sorrow with repentance, asked and received forgiveness (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). While these experiences are not seen as conditions of salvation they are considered vital preparation for true conversion and for a victorious and fruitful Christian life.

Of course, we are speaking of being a true Christian or disciple of Jesus and not just a “cultural Christian” or a “carnal believer.”

The Missing Ingredients #1- Apostolic Evangelism #35

Have you noticed how few people are being converted today in our “Spirit-filled” churches? It seems that we are heavy on the ‘theory’ and the ‘theology’ but light in the ‘fruit’ category. I believe that it is time for those of us from charismatic, prophetic, Pentecostal, renewal, and five-fold apostolic backgrounds to wake up to a painful reality: Non-Spirit-filled people often have more passion for evangelism than we have – and thus more fruit. But, you might protest, some of the largest churches in the world are charismatic or Spirit-filled. This is true – but, many of the big churches we see today are growing primarily from transfer growth – attracting converts already won by other churches and ministries.

The statistics, for example, of the church in the United States are shocking. Eighty percent of the churches have either plateaued or are declining in membership. Fifteen percent of the churches are growing but primarily through transfer growth as people leave churches they deem less spiritual. Less than five percent of the churches are growing because of conversion growth. This is, in reality, a terrible situation. Fewer than five percent of the churches in the United States are successfully reaching the lost!

I am not being critical of those who are out there on the front lines trying to win the lost. I just think not enough Christians or churches are actually working at winning the lost. Many who are not out regularly seeking and saving the lost are critical of those who are – critical of the way things are being done. I like the story about D.L. Moody… a lady once came to him and told him that she disapproved of his methods of preaching the Gospel. Moody was not defensive but sincerely wanted to learn how his preaching could be more effective. “What method do YOU use to preach the Gospel?” he asked her.

The lady’s countenance fell as she admitted to Moody that she didn’t share the Gospel at all. Moody replied, “Well, in that case, I guess I like the methods I use better than the methods you don’t use!”

Paul the apostle seemed to have a similar perspective, rejoicing whenever the Gospel was preached, as imperfect as the method or motives might be:

“Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; But the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the Gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in the pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and will rejoice. ” (Philippians 1:15-18)

So, I want, in the next few days, to take a look at the missing ingredients in traditional evangelism as seen from a biblical, apostolic perspective.

Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today #10 – Apostolic Evangelism #34

As I draw this topic “Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today” to a close we need to look at one other distinctive that arises out of Paul’s ministry although not specifically the book of Acts. Apostles and apostolic teams need to recognize the sphere of ministry God has given to them.

No apostle has an unlimited sphere. The Lord puts limits on us for our own good. Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians 10:14-16: “For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labours, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment.

Paul came to recognize that his ministry was primarily to the Gentiles, even as Peter and the Jerusalem apostles were mainly commissioned to reach the Jews (Galatians 2:8-9). Much frustration and friction on the “mission field” can be eliminated by focusing on our own sphere and recognizing the sphere of others. Although John Wesley boasted that “the world is my parish,” as a practical matter our sphere will normally be much more limited than that.

Understanding these ten principles of biblical apostolic ministry today can greatly enhance our effectiveness as apostles and apostolic people as well as sending churches. However, many apostles are experiencing incredible fruitfulness, even though one or more of these principles is not being observed. It’s better to have the fruit than the principles!

We must remember that the early apostles had not constructed a detailed science of “missions,” nor did they hold prospective apostolic team members to some kind of perfectionistic standard. Rather, they spent time in the Lord’s presence and were careful to obey His leading. They were gripped by the Lord’s heart to seek and save the lost, and they recognized that this could be done most effectively by planting new churches. Having seen God’s glory in the lives of individuals, churches, and then entire cities, the early apostolic ministers had a passion to see the whole earth filled with that glory. May we, too, be stirred with zeal to spread God’s message, His power and His presence, in the world’s harvest fields that are ripe and waiting.

Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today #9 – Apostolic Evangelism #33

As we continue our look at apostolic ministry from the book of Acts, chapter 13 we see that although it is best for each apostle to be sent out from a specific church, much can also be gained from the synergy of churches working together.

Many churches do not have adequate resources – manpower and money – to successfully send out apostolic teams to be planting new churches. But that does not mean they should just excuse themselves from any meaningful role in the much needed apostolic work in the Kingdom today. Every church should be involved in apostolic outreach in some way. It may not be possible for a small church to finance a whole team and all the related costs of a church plant, but if a number of local churches pool their resources, funding should never be a problem.

This sharing of resources is not a modern invention. Paul and the other first-century leaders often called upon the churches to help one another financially. When the prophet Agabus predicted a great famine in Acts 11:27-30, Paul and Barnabas collected money to assist the church in Jerusalem. The following passages from the Living Bible show Paul’s efforts to help the Corinthian Christians see beyond themselves and assist the wider body of Christ:

“God wants you to give what you have, not what you haven’t…Right now you have plenty and an help them; then at some other time they can share with you when you need it. In this way, each will have as much as he needs.” (2 Corinthians 8:12b-14)

“Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much, and when we take your gifts to those who need them they will break out into thanksgiving and praise to God for your help.” (2 Corinthians 9:11)

“…I ‘robbed’ other churches by taking what they sent me and using it up while I was with you so that I could serve you without cost. And when that was gone and I was getting hungry, I still didn’t ask you for anything, for the Christians from Macedonia brought me another gift…” (2 Corinthians 11:8)

Although I have spent much of my Christian life as part of independent, nondenominational churches, I am increasingly seeing the value of churches sharing manpower, money, and other resources in order to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom more effectively.

Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today #8 – Apostolic Evangelism #32

As we continue to look at the ministry of an apostle from Acts 13 and the church at Antioch we see our 8th point – Apostles should be accountable to and occasionally report back to the sending church, giving an account for the conduct and fruitfulness of their ministries.

Not only were Paul and Barnabas SENT OUT from the church in Antioch, they also RETURNED there after each apostolic journey and gave a report to the church (see Acts 14:26-28; 15:30-35; 18:22-23). On certain occasions, they also had to give an account to other Christians, such as the leaders of the Jerusalem church: “And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. (Acts 15:4; see also Galatians 2:1-2)

Apostles ned a place where they can come “home.” This should be a place of love and affirmation, helping the apostles to be refreshed and retooled for their future journeys and ministries. However, the apostle should also be accountable and ready to give a report for their lifestyle, their teachings, and their fruitfulness.

Please understand that this is not always an easy task for the apostle. First, because they travel as much as they do it is sometimes difficult to keep strong relational ties within the home church or the sending church. Even when home between apostolic trips the apostle is often very occupied ministering locally, ministering to other nations by internet, researching and writing material, as well as simply resting and having some family time. Many have to hold down a ministry locally to enable them to earn a limited income with which to live and pay their bills. Time is thus a key factor.

As well, because most of the leaders and people within the local church have not experienced international cross-cultural ministry the apostle senses that they really do not understand all that he lives through when travelling and ministering and so is unwilling to burden others with his “lifestyle” and “ministry” concerns because they simply have not “been there.”

So, he feels alone and somewhat different and knows that he cannot be completely understood or supported in ways that would be most beneficial. As well, other apostles are often living at a distance and this does not allow him to find kindred fellowship easily and without more travel and more time away from home.

In spite of these difficulties and limitations it is still very important for apostles and their team members to remain firmly planted in the life of a local church and to be relationally accountable to the leaders and people of that church.

I am currently ministering in the United States. If you would like to follow my ministry here you can simply visit the Facebook page for Ralph Howe Ministries – where updates are posted on a regular basis – by clicking here.

Biblical Apostolic Ministry Today #7 – Apostolic Evangelism #31

As we continue our look at biblical apostolic ministry today it is good to remind ourselves that apostolic ministry is not something that is done by ‘one anointed person.’ New Testament apostolic ministry was always done as a team – the minimum being two members but often the team was larger, especially in the ministry that The Lord gave to Paul. Of course, we remember that The Lord sent them out two-by-two. This was the standard throughout the New Testament times and still is today.

Paul and Barnabas were not sent out separately but as a team. Each of them had unique gifts. Paul excelled at teaching and leadership training, while Barnabas had extraordinary gifts of encouragement and exhortation (calling people closer to God). To this nucleus was added John Mark, who served as a helper to the team (Acts 13:5).

No matter how strong or gifted an apostle is, they will need help from others in order to succeed in establishing healthy new churches. Those with an apostolic anointing may be able to function in a variety of spiritual gifts, but no one can function well in every gift. Though Paul’s strong choleric personality could have driven him to a high degree of independence, no one was a stronger advocate of the full diversity and functioning of every member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 28-31).

Paul is especially pointed in warning those who would arrogantly claim to have no need for other members of the body: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; not again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-22) The apostolic perspective is that only the entire Church can fulfill the entire commission of the Church.

The apostolic team sent from Antioch was not static but went through many changes. Eventually Paul had a team consisting of a wide variety of people from a wide variety of places: Silas , from Jerusalem (Acts 15:22); Timothy and Gaius. from Derbe (Acts 16:1-3;, 20:4); Titus and Sopater from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundas from Thessalonica; Tychicus and Trophimus, from Asia; Epaphroditus from Philippi; Epaphras from Colosse; Luke, and so on…

Paul’s team became a true “multinational force.” This is a good objective for modern-day apostolic teams that would once again turn the world upside down with the message of Christ’s Kingdom (Acts 17:6-7). In my ministry I work with nationals in each country where I work – young men with an apostolic call who are willing and able to join with me during my time in their nation. This is a tremendous help in what The Lord has called me to do but also an opportunity for them to receive good hands-on training and mentoring.

I am currently ministering in the United States. If you would like to follow my ministry here you can simply visit the Facebook page for Ralph Howe Ministries – where updates are posted on a regular basis – by clicking here.