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, â€œUntil 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.â€
Keep that in mind. Do I believe in evangelism? You bet I do, and thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m over here in Kenya, some eight thousand miles away from my six children, crying out of missing them, but also crying because Iâ€™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 â€œThe Eternal Roadâ€ 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 Iâ€™ve read from NavPress Deliberate. It is excellent.
I read the introduction or preface or something that describes NavPress Deliberate. It says Navpress Deliberate â€œencourages readers to embrace this holistic…Christian faith.â€ What holistic Christian faith? The one that includes â€œcaring forÂ the poor, widow, prisoner, and foreigner…and redeeming the world.â€
Thatâ€™s it? Thatâ€™s the holistic Christian faith? What about the Church? You know, the thing thatâ€™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 theyâ€™d better start looking at the things that are heresy to them to find out what theyâ€™re doing wrong.
Galatians 6:10 says that weâ€™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. Itâ€™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 thatÂ 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 Peterâ€™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, thatâ€™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. Thatâ€™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 wasnâ€™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 â€œretailâ€ or â€œpeddleâ€). He said, â€œDonâ€™t preach unless your sentâ€ (Rom. 10:15). He said, â€œMind your own business!â€ (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, â€œRead your Bible, pray every day,â€ and then some words that basically said, â€œThis is the way you grow.â€ 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 youâ€™ll grow. We should teach those children to sing, â€œExhort your brother, donâ€™t miss a day,â€ 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 thatâ€™s so. Itâ€™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 thatâ€™s not so.
God is restoring his people, binding them together under his rule so that they can grow like theyâ€™re supposed to. Please join the revolution. As a dear Kenyan brother here likes to say, â€œIt is powerful, my brother; powerful!â€
If you have a chance come to our conference on June 27-29. Details are at http://www.rosecreekvillage.com/conference.