Reaching the World

I am sitting in a hotel room in Kenya. Why am I here? I am here to preach the Gospel to the longing masses of Kenya. Just yesterday I heard a woman announce loudly with great zeal and joy, “Until these brothers came from the USA, I was in darkness. I was depressed and saddened by what I was seeing in the church around me. I was without hope. But now they have brought the light, and I am ready to shine.”

 

Keep that in mind. Do I believe in evangelism? You bet I do, and that’s why I’m over here in Kenya, some eight thousand miles away from my six children, crying out of missing them, but also crying because I’m going to miss my new brothers and sisters here in Nakuru when I leave tomorrow. I have been laid out flat in a European airport with my back thrown out, trying to be out of pain enough to get on an overnight flight to Nairobi and out of the way enough not to have airport security carry me off on a stretcher. I have kissed and hugged children with dirty noses and open sores, shared a 10×10 room with five other men, and bounced my way across 120 kilometers of a dirt road we nicknamed “The Eternal Road” for the vigorous shaking it gave us.

 

Okay, with that out of the way, I want to complain about the American emphasis on evangelism. It is destroying Christians, it has already completely destroyed the church, and it is working on destroying the world.

 

Twenty years ago, I was in a group called the Navigators. They are ministry mainly to college students and young military. They emphasize discipline, service to others, Scripture memory, and discipling others. What they do is generally good, and their founder, Dawson Trotman, was an exceptional and wonderful man.

 

They have a publishing company called NavPress that has now, apparently, spawned another called NavPress Deliberate. NavPress puts out some of the best books in the Christian market. _The End of Religion_, by Bruxy Cavey, is the first book I’ve read from NavPress Deliberate. It is excellent.

 

However…

 

I read the introduction or preface or something that describes NavPress Deliberate. It says Navpress Deliberate “encourages readers to embrace this holistic…Christian faith.” What holistic Christian faith? The one that includes “caring for  the poor, widow, prisoner, and foreigner…and redeeming the world.”

 

That’s it? That’s the holistic Christian faith? What about the Church? You know, the thing that’s called the fullness of God (Eph. 1:23), the body and bride of Christ, and in which God receives glory forever. Nothing too important, just the very purpose that he died, at least according to Eph. 5:25-27 and Tit. 2:14.

 

Today we taught the newborn church in Nakuru to look inward and not outward; to focus on ministering to one another rather than on ministering to the world. That is heresy to evangelical Christianity. On the other hand, evangelical Christianity is a horrendous failure (re: _The Scandal of Evangelical Christianity_ by Ronald Sider), so they’d better start looking at the things that are heresy to them to find out what they’re doing wrong.

 

Galatians 6:10 says that we’re to do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Why? Because the only way we are going to reach the world is to show them Christ. And Christ has said that the way we will show them Christ is to be perfectly united in love (Jn. 13:34,35; 17:20-23). This is what the Thessalonians did, and it was so powerful that Paul no longer needed to preach in the area of their influence! (1 Thess. 1:7-9).

 

Paul preached. He did it to start churches, which would then be the light of the world. They are the city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. It’s not your little light that must shine, believer. The good works God wants us to show are to be done by the church together, so that  the great light of the city of God will shine (Matt. 5:13-16). When that happens, my friend, the nations will gather, and they will bring the children of the kingdom on their shoulders (Isaiah 60:1ff).

 

This is not theory, we are seeing it happen, even in the deadness, greed, and unbelief of American society. It is now beginning to happen in a place much less closed to the Gospel than America is.

 

Search somewhere for a command in any letter to any church for believers to evangelize. You will find not even one! The closest you will find is Peter’s exhortation to be prepared to answer those who ask you about your hope in Christ. When was the last time you were asked about your hope in Christ? Chances are, that’s exceptionally rare. People do not want to be corralled by a member of the Christian sales force that Evangelicals have mobilized to hide the fact that their Christianity has lost all its power.

 

I get asked about my hope regularly. At least every week or two. Really. That’s the product of living in the kind of environment that the Thessalonian church lived in, where brothers dwell together in unity. There God has commanded the blessing of eternal life (Ps. 133:3).

 

Paul knew that words were useless. He wasn’t interested in the being the kind of peddler of wise words and arguments that we evangelicals are (2 Cor. 2:17, where the Greek word means “retail” or “peddle”). He said, “Don’t preach unless your sent” (Rom. 10:15). He said, “Mind your own business!” (1 Thess. 4:11). He knew that it was important that the Gospel be preached only by ministers who adorned it with good works, and who relied on the power of God and not on words (1 Cor. 4:20).

 

The church is important. Today I heard children singing, “Read your Bible, pray every day,” and then some words that basically said, “This is the way you grow.” It is not the way you grow! That is the lie, my friends, that has allowed wonderful people like those who created NavPress Deliberate to completely ignore the church, the fullness of him that fills all in all, while declaring that they have a holistic Gospel.

 

Read Ephesians 4:11-16. Really read it. The way we grow is together, speaking the truth in love to one another. You will not grow sitting in your room reading your Bible and praying. You will grow, together with other saints, as every part does its share, as you are trained by your leaders to build the body of Christ by speaking the truth to one another in love. This is the only way you’ll grow. We should teach those children to sing, “Exhort your brother, don’t miss a day,” in accordance with what the Bible actually says (Heb. 3:13).

 

It is a saying here that African Christianity is a mile wide but only an inch deep. I heard it both in Kenya and in Uganda. Of course that’s so. It’s not just the children who think that we will grow by reading our Bible and praying every day. We need to read our Bibles enough to find out that’s not so.

 

God is restoring his people, binding them together under his rule so that they can grow like they’re supposed to. Please join the revolution. As a dear Kenyan brother here likes to say, “It is powerful, my brother; powerful!”

 

If you have a chance come to our conference on June 27-29. Details are at http://www.rosecreekvillage.com/conference.

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5 Responses to Reaching the World

  1. Babu Lonnie says:

    Shammah,
    That’s for more than you will ever know.

  2. Kim says:

    Thanks for YOUR kind comments! I love your site and your obvious commitment to genuine community. Hope I get a chance to visit out there sometime. (Although I may have missed that week of training on how to be a good guest. Will try to borrow someone’s notes. Thanks for the tip.)

    Seriously, I think your expression of the faith community is just way beyond cool. May Jesus continue to be glorified through your lives and love for one another.

  3. Shammah says:

    Awesome! A comment from the Navigators. Whew! I’m glad my remarks about them were positive. It couldn’t have been otherwise, though, because the leaders I met in the Navigators were not only genuine in their faith, they were devoted men, whose devotion I hope I’m imitating to some extent. It’s easy to criticize an organization, but it’s hard to speak ill of good and sincere men. They introduced me to the writings of people like Jim Elliott, and I learned from them.

    I have to mention Craig Parker, the Navigator rep to the Ramstein AFB area in Germany. He lived in Mackenbach. We had our conflicts; enough that he’d probably remember me for them. We also had a strong mutual respect, and my last memory of him was the incredible repair he did on my wife’s piano at no charge. He’s got to still be in the Navigators, even though that was 20 years ago.

    While we’re commenting on the Navigators, let me also recommend the Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges and, most likely, anything else he’s written.

    Finally, it would take a long time to explain my disagreements with the Navigators’ idea of how to work with and assist the church. Suffice it to say that my experience with the Navigators is that they are the kind of people who would find a blog like mine, write something as positive and useful as Kim wrote, and care that Christ is glorified. They train their people to be good guests, too, so if you ever meet one, make sure to invite them to your home. I would never want to be found speaking negatively of their people.

    Thanks, Kim, for your kind comments.

  4. Kim says:

    Shammah, thanks for your excellent blog and insightful observations. While the introduction to “The End of Religion” may have overlooked the church, be assured that The Navigators has no intention of excluding the church. They now have an entire ministry division dedicated to working with church leaders. Recently our former president stated (during a Navigator training seminar on the church), “Long after The Navigators are only a footnote in history, the local church will still be here in some form.”

    Kudos to you for encouraging your readers to resist the temptation to be a lone ranger in their faith. It’s vitally important for us to be in fellowship with other believers. That’s how we grow. Keep up the good work!

    Kim at Navs

  5. Benjamin says:

    WOW! Shammah, You defininately hit that one straight on! It is such an encouragement to read your blogs,they bring so much life! You bring so much for people to chew on,to really comprehend the Christ life.
    It is such an honor to hear you share your heart! Looking foward to the future!

    Benjamin
    Servant-in-training and friend

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