New Testament Church Proliferation Digest


Spreading the Gospel via House Churches


July 8, 2001 Vol 01 : 029

 

[New Testament Church Proliferation] Winning Whole Households

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Evangelism of individuals vs. families or networks

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] First-century meeting places

[New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: First-century churches (from Mike)

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] The Goal of Evangelism in Church Planting

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] The Goal of Evangelism in Church Planting

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] The Goal of Evangelism in Church Planting

[New Testament Church Proliferation] list protocols

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] list protocols

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] list protocols

[New Testament Church Proliferation] Pop evangelism techniques

 

Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2001 10:26:20 +0700 From: "Link"

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Winning Whole Households

I remember reading a little about Nommeson, a local Christian hero. He was a Lutheran missionary from Germany that came to Sumatra, part of modern Indonesia, and won many Batak. The Batak were an ancestor worshipping race that had killed the first couple of missionaries that came. They were known for cannibalism, though that was slightly exaggerated. Nommenson was more 'contextual.' He got adopted into a Batak family according to custom.

Nommenson evangelized a dozen people as the beginning of a church. His strategy was to evangelize households and clans. The Batak, being tribal, had a system of closely-related families and clans.

Nommenson wore local clothes, and I hear he set up church that fit with Batak culture. I don't know if it comes from the decades of German oversight or not, but the HKBP church that grew out of Nommenson's work. I'm a Batak now. They like to adopt their in-laws into a related clan. They adopted me in as my wife's first cousin.

I've been to cultural ceremonies. I look at them and I think the format they use could be very similar to a mutually exhorting house church type meeting. Various relatives take turns speaking in their cultural ceremonies.

About a third of Batak are Muslim. maybe someone can try this more contextual way of meeting when they win those Batak.

One problem with the HKBP church is that it seems discipleship was rather shallow in some areas. There is a lot of paganism left among some- people still praying to their ancestors, offering them food, going to witch doctors and that sort of thing. A lot of Batak are Pentecostals now. At the extended family Christmas party in the village in the mountains, they cooked two kinds of water buffalo- the buffalo with blood, and buffalo without blood. Pentecostals here don't eat blood, but the traditional Lutherans usually do. Ironic. I'd think the Lutherans would be more into the patristic writings.

It's amazing to think how big Nommensons's work grew. I believe the fact that he tried to win households and clans was a big factor. I know another missionary here who is part of a similar success story. About 40 years ago, he went to evangelize the Dani in a certain area. Other missionaries had other areas. There was a huge people movement. this miss'nary told about the Dani having closely related clans. The men from a clan met in the men's house. When the discipleship started taking place among a clan in the menshouse, brother David, the miss'nary, advised them to get rid of the taboo, and let women in the men's house.

One of the church planting movements in the church planterM booklet from the SBC IMB said that one of the church planterm's in India grew as families often believed and were baptized with their households.

Many church leaders want church growth. One popular method in the south of the US is to hold a tent meeting or a church crusade. Since most people become Christians through relationships anyway, from what I've heard, maybe church leaders could focus on this area.

If a head of a household believes, let him invite unbelieving friends and relatives in his 'circle' over for dinner. A church planter, evangelist or other ev. gifted saint can join with him at the dinner, build up relationships, and share the Gospel.

This head of household and others in his family would join in on conversations sharing the Gospel right from their conversation. Maybe this would become a habit later on in life. They'd get some ev. apprenticeship out of this. Others in their 'circle' may believe also.

If a believer repents who is not the head of the house, like a teenage sone, then perhaps the same thing can be done at the church planterer's house or in a restaurant or coffee house.

Think of all the people who give the following prayer request in small meetings: "Pray for my father/mother/sister. He/she is not a believer."

I've got a question for George Patterson.

In your experience in church planting in central America, did you follow this strategy of evangelizing a new believers 'circle.' Do you have any experiences you'd like to share? What about people you've coached. has this worked for them?


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Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2001 10:48:11 -0400 From: "Dan Beaty"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Evangelism of individuals vs. families or networks

George,

Thanks for the helpful response to my question. Maybe you could help me some more. You wrote:

<<Few Western missionaries can truly apply Acts 16:31 and promise a converted head of a family that his folks will also be saved. People movements are built on this dynamic, however. This is why so many Western evangelists actually stifle people movements by introducing the individualistic mentality into them.

Also,

<<Abraham's saving faith in Genesis was focused on God's blessings reaching all nations through his seed. He believed that these recipients of God's blessings would be as numerous as the stars, and that was the belief that God counted for righteousness, and upon which promise the New Testament rests. Most Western evangelism, however, sees God's grace flowing into one individual, then stopping there.

The individualistic mindset has proven to be a tremendous obstacle to our work in Columbus. Do you have any suggestions as to how to overcome these obstacles? Being strongly individualistic myself, I have found that serious dealings of God have been necessary to break me free from it.

Dan Beaty Columbus, Ohio USA

http://www.livingtruth.com


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Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2001 11:36:35 -0400 From: "Dan Beaty"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] First-century meeting places

George wrote:

<<Dear debating friends, I am enjoying the debate on meeting in homes immensely. It is long overdue. I hope it continues until both house churches and those who meet in buildings have a hearty, non-legalistic respect for the other and appreciate their reasons. This is the healthiest thing that has happened among Evangelicals for a long time. George Patterson

Jim Rutz also wrote:

<<But having the Lord Jesus as master of ceremonies is the quintessence of the home church dynamic. And that can take place in a tree, in the neighborhood pub, in a hot tub, or on a mountain top. Take your pick.

That's why I called my book The Open Church instead of something about the house church.>>

The Open Church was the first book I came across back in 1995 that dealt with some of my concerns for many modern N American churches. It's approach was very positive and helpful.

Like George, I too have been hoping for healthy dialog between folks in home church and those who meet in buildings. As one who strongly advocates the home and open church concepts, I must be careful to not become over critical about the traditional churches. But at the same time, I feel that God is sounding a trumpet call, not necessarily to "come out of the building" or even to "come out of the denominations," but to come out of the worldly thinking that disagrees with His plan to "present unto Himself a glorious church without spot, holy and without blemish before Him in love."

Somehow we in home church must learn to affirm true believers everywhere, while still being faithful to the prophetic word He has placed within us. Pray for us, and for me in particular. Recently I have learned that I am being viewed by some of those who love me, as unfair to non home church Christians.

That has not been in my heart, but I must learn why I have been misunderstood so, and to change where necessary with the Lord's help.

Dan Beaty Columbus, Ohio USA

http://www.livingtruth.com


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Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2001 12:36:34 -0400 From: forwarded

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: First-century churches (from Mike)

[From: "Mike" <deborah.millier*JUCCampus.ORG>

Link wrote:

It's clear that the early Christians met in the temple. We also know that they met in the temple [you must mean here _synagogue_, right?-- MICHAEL] from time to time. But do you have any evidence that they ever 'had church' in the synagogue, or had a church meeting in the synagogue.

Yes, but it is only indirect in the Scriptures and conclusions must be inferred. For instance, the James 2:2 passage which mentions believers at least going to synagogue (whether a Christian one or not isn't immediately clear) is followed by an exhortation for those aspiring to be teachers (Jms. 3:1ff), one of the five-fold ministry gifts (Eph. 4:11, 12). Would Christian Jews have been teachers in the synagogue? If so then they were held accountable for proper "church" teaching there; the context doesn't suggest evangelism, but doctrinal instruction. Then James goes on to specifically mention the "ekklesia" (5:13) with elders, praying for the sick, anointing with oil, etc. Now it could be argued that here James is referring to (house?) church meetings, while in 2:2 he was speaking of a non-messianic synagogue. And that is a possibility. But upon reflection, it is more likely to my mind that he is maintaining a "church" context throughout the letter. Which means the church (5:13) was meeting in a synagogue (2:2).

Then there is the meeting in Acts 20:7, "when the disciples came together to break bread...". When we look at the Greek we find the text actually says that they got together "mia ton sabbaton" (the first of the _Sabbath_), a rather ambiguous expression. It could refer to Sunday morning (Mar. 16:2-- note the qualification about "the rising of the sun;" see also Luk. 24:1; Joh. 20:1). But the context of the Acts passage suggests it was already evening when the disciples got together: "Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight". The Syrian and some other Middle Eastern-based churches still celebrate the Eucharist on Saturday night based on (they say) Apostolic tradition which originated from this event and the liturgy surrounding it. If that's the case, it seems reasonable to suggest that Paul was celebrating a "motzaei Shabbat" service, when the Sabbath is "ushered out as a queen". There are a few Christian commentators familiar with Jewish customs who favor this explanation, though admittedly they are in the minority (Emerton, Cranfield, and Stanton. THE INTERNATIONAL CRITICAL COMMENTARY. 1998, pp. 950-51; Stern, David H. JEWISH NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY. Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1992, p. 297-98). Though this meeting took place in the third story of a house or apartment building, many synagogue services were actually held in homes (Meeks, Wayne. THE FIRST URBAN CHRISTIANS. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983, p. 80; John White. BUILDING GOD'S HOUSE IN THE ROMAN WORLD. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990, pp. 60-101.) even when a community had a central building.?

Also we must deal with the issue of liturgy. The Antioch, Syria church (house or not?) was following a liturgy (Gk. leitourgounton) when Paul and Barnabas were separated by the Holy Spirit for ministry to the Gentiles (Act 13:2). The word "leitourgounton" with its variously inflected forms at the very _least_ denotes offices with prescribed duties. They weren't just "winging it" in Antioch! It is true this Greek word can be applied to both religious and secular "ministries," but by far the root word appears in the NT within sacramental contexts (16 occurrences: 4 as aid to private individuals, once of a government official, twice to the LORD in contexts which are not necessarily sacramental ... but could be, 9 in tabernacle/temple contexts), as you might expect. Not to mention how it is used in the LXX (93 occurrences: 6 referring to ministering to the king, once to a prophet, once to an idol-- the rest to the Lord in the tabernacle/temple). It almost always has sacramental undertones in both testaments, and I think it is best we see it in this light in Act 13:2. This interpretation also best explains how they "ministered _to_ the Lord" (Act. 13:1, emphasis mine).

If this was the case, and the Antioch Church followed a set order of service with sacramental undertones as the evidence suggests, then the question must be asked: where did such a liturgy come from? It could have descended from heaven. The believers in Antioch could have made it up as they went along. They could have assigned Christian meanings to pagan religious rituals. Or they could have inherited/modified a set order of service from the temple and/or synagogue. In fact, the Antioch congregation could still have been functioning as a synagogue, since "the certain prophets and teachers" mentioned in Act 13:1 were almost certainly all Jews, there were by this time around 65,000 Jews in Antioch-- one seventh of the city's population (Longenecker, R. GALATIANS. Word Biblical Commentary, 1987, p. 68), large numbers of gentiles in Antioch were attracted at this time to the _"religious ceremonies"_ of the Jews (Josephus. THE JEWISH WARS. 7.43-45), and there is no good reason to assume they suddenly changed the essential way Jews and God-fearers did corporate worship together. The continuing Jewish lifestyles and Temple/synagogue worship of the Judean Christians argues against this as well.

The non-biblical evidence ties the inferences made above together since it raises the question as to why there might have been a Christian synagogue on Mt. Zion (see BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, 16, May-June 1990: 16-35) if the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem hadn't been doing something similar before? Such a specific place of worship argues in favor of them having "church" within a synagogue building. Corroborative evidence includes the niche for the Torah (Law) scroll in the Mt. Zion synagogue which was oriented directly toward Jesus' ex-tomb-- the present day Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is unlike _any_ other synagogues discovered from this period, which all had the Torah niche oriented to the Temple. Furthermore, the bedrock level of the synagogue yielded specifically Christian writing. This implies a distinctly Jewish Christian synagogue.

There is also some yet-to-be-confirmed evidence in the form of several ceremonial items dug up by a Greek Orthodox priest from the same area on Mt. Zion, inside a "mikveh" (Jewish ritual bath; baptismal) just behind the Upper Room/Cenacle building where the above synagogue building was uncovered. Each relevant artifact was either painted, embossed, or etched with a distinctive ensignia: a fish, the tail pointing up and blending into a Magen David (Star of David), with a simple Menorah (seven branched candlestick) on top of the highest point of the star. On one marble "brick" there is an Aramaic inscription which reads something like "LSHMN RHA" which has been translated by some as "for the oil of the Spirit". The first part is definitely "for oil" or "for the oil" but the last part is difficult to decipher. The "resh" and "het" are clear enough. The script is similar to other inscriptions found miles away, and dated to the second century A.D. Either way, the fish/star/menorah symbol is on the "brick," which is perhaps a stand for a container of anointing oil. The other items with the symbol were oil lamps, vials, jars, etc.-- eight artifacts in all (Schmalz, Reuven E. and Raymond R. Fischer. THE MESSIANIC SEAL OF THE JERUSALEM CHURCH. Tiberias, Israel: Olim Publications, 1999). If confirmed as authentic by credible archaeologists, this will be more corroborative evidence that there really was a Christian (more specifically _Nazarene_) synagogue on Mt. Zion from the 1st century until at least the second century (remember Epiphanius' report about a "church" building on Mt. Zion during Hadrian's time-- 130 A.D.).

In other words, we have scriptural evidence for Christians going to the

synagogue, but do we have any good evidence for Christians meeting _as the

church_ in a synagogue.

See above. Your comments seem to stem from certain presuppositions (correct me if I'm wrong) which I'd like to challenge: (1) That the early Christians may have been going to synagogue as outsiders with a _primarily_ evangelistic agenda in so doing. This proceeds from another assumption that (2) they would have defined themselves as _other_ than larger Israel; as a completely different religion to which they sought to win their fellow countrymen/women.

Most of us have a natural tendency to read our present contexts back into the Bible. And this is good to the extent that it helps us apply Scripture to our here-and-now. But it can also be a hindrance in actually learning what the _Scripture_ says on a particular issue; we should, to the best of our ability, determine correct interpretation _before_ we make application. So historical and cultural background information can aid us in our task of understanding what things meant to _them_ back then so we can properly apply them to _our_ current situations. I realize that what follows will seem somewhat subjective since it is dealing with worldviews. However, I'm confident that you will be able to relate at a conscious level to the things I'm about to discuss:

1) Let's say you, me, and a few other present-day Christian friends decided to go down to the local synagogue in our town. Let's say we saw some interesting stuff there, met some new friends, learned something interesting from the Jewish approach(es) to Scripture, and even got a chance to witness for Jesus. We each would be quite aware of the _us/them_ aspect of such an encounter even if one or more of us were modern Messianic Jews. But that was not the case back in the days of the early Church.?

The early Jewish Christians went to synagogue meetings mainly because that was where Jewish people went for corporate prayer and especially to study the Bible back then. Understand that by synagogue meetings, I'm including home gatherings (Meeks, Wayne. THE FIRST URBAN CHRISTIANS. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983, p. 80; John White. BUILDING GOD'S HOUSE IN THE ROMAN WORLD. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990, pp. 60-101.) since they were a part of the whole synagogue experience. The synagogue building was a place you could stay if you were passing through a town where you didn't know anybody; it served as a hostel. Particularly in the Diaspora, the synagogue was the Jewish traveler's lifeline to the rest of the Jewish community (in their homes and in buildings), to find kosher foods, to make business contacts, to find a haven from the widespread idolatry of the Roman world. Yes the early Christians were in some ways very different. Yes, they believed Jesus was the Messiah, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they (at least ideally) saw the gentiles as equal partners in the new covenant. But they were-- as you are-- part of a community with cultural norms governed for the most part by biblical Law. And local customs. The synagogues were part of the make-up of their society much like children going to school, or adults running to the corner grocery for a loaf of bread is to ours. 1st century Jews' lives revolved around the synagogues. And home meetings were supplementary to the synagogue system from early on (Meeks, Wayne. THE FIRST URBAN CHRISTIANS. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983, p. 80; John White. BUILDING GOD'S HOUSE IN THE ROMAN WORLD. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990, pp. 60-101.).

2) The early Jewish believers saw themselves as part (not the whole) of Israel. A faithful remnant. That is why the Jerusalem believers could remain "zealous for the Law" (Act 21:20). That is why Paul could address Jews who did not believe in Jesus as "brothers" (Act 22:1, 5; 23:1, 5, 6; 28:17; Rom. 9:3) and he, toward the end of his Christian ministry, could still say of himself (present tense), "I _am_ a Pharisee" (Act 23:6), maintaining his ties with a distinctly Jewish denomination. That is why many Jewish followers of Jesus (as well as Roman non-Jews) could remain within the synagogue system throughout the Diaspora for quite some time (Rutgers, Leonard V. "Archaeological Evidence for the Interaction of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 1992, 96:101-18.; Charlesworth, James H. "Exploring Opportunities for Rethinking Relations among Jews and Christians," JEWS AND CHRISTIANS: EXPLORING THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE. New York: Crossroads, 1990. 35-59). Additional historical evidence comes from Jerome who speaks about Jewish "Nazarenes" (wrongly considered by some Church fathers to be heretics because of their continued observance of the Torah [Law]-- see Pritz, Ray A. NAZARENE JEWISH CHRISTIANITY. Jerusalem: Magnus Press, The Hebrew University, 1988), who were during his time (c. 410 A.D.), still found "in all the synagogues of the East among the Jews" (AGAINST PELAGIUS 22, 924).

It appears that all early Christians were aware that a new age had dawned in Christ, but many still considered themselves to be faithful Jews functioning within the established Jewish cultural norms of the day. They saw themselves as part of their own people-- and the gentiles as grafted in to their tree. Others became more separist, and though they still gathered in synagogues, they were, in some aspects, distinguished from the greater part of their people. Even so, they would not have been as distinct as you seem to be implying. They would have met and ministered on behalf of _all_ the covenant people (Jew and gentile) in the power of the Holy Spirit. Within synagogues.

Michael

Jerusalem


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Date: Sat, 07 Jul 2001 11:03:45 -0700 From: "John Cooke"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] The Goal of Evangelism in Church Planting

The issue is not quite that simple. I like Gene Edwards writings but I don't think he is a missiologist or a theologian.

The Great Commission does not tell us to "go and plant churches in every city", but to "...make disciples among every nation, ethnos, language and people group". We are even told how to do this: "by teaching them to obey Jesus' commands (the last of which, was to "Go and make disciples from among every ethnic, linguistic and national group.")

Planting churches in major port cities, the way Paul did, was a strategic way of accomplishing that goal. Planting churches (small c) is not an end in itself any more than evangelism is (evangelism is just one of the steps in the same way that planting local churches is just a step). None of those churches Paul planted exist today, but the "Church" does.

The visible product of obedience to the Great Commission will result in groups of assembled disciples called churches. These groups or assemblies are the best way to make disciples. It's the way Jesus did it and the way the apostles did it. But these groups or assemblies are not the "END". The ONE CHURCH, the BRIDE of Christ from every ethnic, linguistic, national and tribal group (whether or not from every city), is the END.

City churches are strategic towards this end because major cities are melting pots and crossroads for these groups.

John F. Cooke

missionary, house & cell church planting coach jfcooke*hotmail.com


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Date: Sat, 07 Jul 2001 11:24:12 -0700 From: "John Cooke"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] The Goal of Evangelism in Church Planting

We have not finished the task related to evangelism just because we have started a church in a home.

Paul considedred his task done (as it related to evangelism) in a certain city because he had set in motion a reproductive process. He made disciples who understood that they were to go and make disciples. He planted churches that understood they were to plant churches.

The problem with our discipleship process is that we do not reproduce "disciple-makers". We reproduce "blessing consumers", addicted to edification. Just because we change the meeting place from church building to a house, will not make the sheep into disciple-makers or church planters.

Unless we have done that we must not consider our work related to evangelism finished.

John F. Cooke

GraceWorks Ministries house-to-house churches church planting coach


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Date: Sat, 07 Jul 2001 11:28:15 -0700 From: "John Cooke"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] The Goal of Evangelism in Church Planting

We have not finished the task related to evangelism just because we have started a church in a home.

Paul considedred his task done (as it related to evangelism) in a certain city because he had set in motion a reproductive process. He made disciples who understood that they were to go and make disciples. He planted churches that understood they were to plant churches.

The problem with our discipleship process is that we do not reproduce "disciple-makers". We reproduce "blessing consumers", addicted to edification. Just because we change the meeting place from church building to a house, will not make the sheep into disciple-makers or church planters.

Unless we have done that we must not consider our work related to evangelism finished.

John F. Cooke

GraceWorks Ministries house-to-house churches church planting coach


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Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2001 15:13:15 -0400 From: forwarded

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] list protocols

Howdy there readers of ntchurch planter and home churchtalk,

In order to satisfy the greatest number of internet participants, please send your messages in plain text rather than in html or html attachments.

Some mail programs automatically default to the html format. So, make sure your html box is not checked before you hit the send button.

When you send an attachment, many email programs file it in another place and it is not immediately available without opening a separate program and tracking it down. Some users have limited ram and cannot open more programs without closing others. Thus, the chance of your message not being noticed goes way up.

Another member asked about mail formatting, that is, colored text and underlining. There is no universal standard for it pertaining to internet email and newsgroups. Just ~use~ _other_ creative *ways* of e m p h a s i z i n g your WORDS.

And remember, please send your mail from your subscription address only, otherwise it will have to be reviewed by a human bean. :D

Thanks much.

David Anderson mail forwarder


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Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2001 15:44:49 EDT From: JAMES RUTZ

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] list protocols

Dear David,

Thank you for the heads-up on formatting. Where do I find my html box? My HELP button doesn't yield any clues.

Jim Rutz


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Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2001 16:19:54 -0400 From: forwarded

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] list protocols

Dear David,

Thank you for the heads-up on formatting. Where do I find my html box? My HELP button doesn't yield any clues.

Jim Rutz jim

Hello,

These details vary from mail program to program depending on the version number and platform (pc, mac, unix).

Some versions of America-on-Line have the little box to check as do some the free web mail services (hotmail, etc). If you don't see it, then that particular setting is performed through the mail program's preferences, usually under EDIT, in the menu at the top of the screen.

While we are on the subject, the maximum characters per post is 24,000, which should filter out most any virus. Longer messages get "bounced" for review. Usually they are ads from friendly folks wanting to help us become fabulously wealthy or slim and trim. :D These advertisers try to send things to the list to get the "shotgun blast" effect, that is, one message going to many others.

Just keep doing what you are doing, Jim. Your messages via CompuServe look fine.

David Anderson


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Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2001 19:01:25 -0700 (PDT) From: Link H

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Pop evangelism techniques

There are a lot of methods and cliche's used in evangelism these days that, imo, aren't exactly Biblical. How do you church planters deal with working with people who use shallow methods of evangelism?

I sometimes attend a certain home group here in Jakarta. I had heard stories from one of the members about an evangelist named Mr. Saut who liked to do visitation and hospital ministry.

I went with the home group to a hospital for people with nervous problems. Downstairs were stroke victims, brained damaged drug addicts, and upstairs were people with mental problems. When we got there, the upstairs was already closed off for visitors.

I watched Mr. Saut and his wife minister. I can really respect their zeal for evangelism. I am sure they are much more active in evangelism than I am, and I would like to learn from their boldness and zeal. Mr. Saut would jump right in and tell people about Jesus.

But some things they did concerned me. Some of these things are common in 'pop evangelism.' Here are some of my concerns:

1. Emphasis on 'asking Jesus into your heart.'

Saut's wife in particular would have people repeat a prayer to ask Jesus into their hearts. One person she did this with was a very skinny brain damaged drug addict who acted like a child. He was probably about 20. The poor guy was really skinny, but ate about 8 pieces of cake and Saut's wife gave him. He'd repeat whatever she said. I don't' know what his religious background was.

After he repeated this prayer, Mrs. Saut said Jesus wasn't in the sky or somewhere far away, but in his heart.

Why is this a concern of mine? For one thing, the Bible doesn't teach that you get saved by asking Jesus into your heart. The Bible teaches that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. It also talks about the peace of Christ reigning in our hearts. But it doesn't say that we get saved by asking Christ into our hearts.

Another concern I have about witnessing to brain-damaged Buddist, having them repeat a prayer and then telling them that Christ is in their heart, without laying a foundation of the crucifixion and resurrection, is that the Buddist might get the idea that Christ is some sort of Spirit that does not have a body. I think we should emphasize the death and resurrection of Christ, since these are central doctrines.

2. Telling people 'you are saved.'

In the Bible, I don't see where anyone ever repeated a prayer after someone else to get saved. This is an evangelical tradition that might be about 100 years old.

It's kind of ironic that a lot of evangelicals believe that some traditional Christians who repeat the apostles creed every week is not saved, but if someone repeats a prayer after a preacher, that he is automatically saved.

I even heard one preacher say that if you 'haven't prayed that prayer' you aren't saved. Wesley, Luther, Finney, Paul, James, etc. probably never repeated a 'sinner's prayer' after a preacher. It seems that a lot of evangelicals think that following the man-made ritual of the sinner's prayer saves us, rather than faith in Christ.

Some preachers have an altar call, tell the people to repeat a prayer, and then tell them they are saved. "Don't let the Devil tell you that you aren't saved." So when the sinner leaves the altar feeling convicted of his sins, and hears "Repent!" in his spirit, he can blame it all on the Devil.

What's really disturbing is when the preacher gives a 'fuzzy altar call' and doesn't explain what happened on the cross or the resurrection, has people pray that 'Christ comes in their heart' and then tells the people that they are saved.

God could use a 'fuzzy altar call' to get someone interested in Jesus, but I think some people are saved in spite of our methods rather than because of them.

Mr. Saut told one older woman that she was saved after she repeated a prayer. I was about to speak up and ad some qualifiers. Then I realized what was going on. this was a Christian family. Saut had everyone repeat that prayer anyway. He didn't check to see where they were at before he prayed with them.

3. Lack of emphasis on repentance.

Mr. Saut did talk about repentance some. I wonder, though, if people are rushed through a sinner's prayer, if we really give them time to be convicted and experience some contrition.

I found a great site on this subject by Ray Comfort. Comfort believes that the emphasis on Jesus as 'life-enhancement' instead of convincing sinner's of their sin and presenting Jesus as the solution has resulted in a lot of 'stoney ground conversions.'

Comfort discovered decades ago that crusades have very low success rates, judging success by finding out how many who came forward were involved in church life a year later. I think I've heard that Billy Graham crusades have a 3% success rate, and Graham actually tells about the cross. The altar call is maybe 150 years old. I wonder if we haven't been influenced by the mass-manufacturing culture we live in in how we try to lead people to Christ.

He has some Realplayer files online you can listen to at <www.raycomfort.com>. Listen to "Hell's Best-Kept Secret" if you are interested. There eis a whole evangelism-training series.

4. Baptism.

When I study what the apostles and early Christians in the Bible did to lead others to faith, I see that they baptized new converts right away. If someone wanted to accept the Gospel message, he was baptized. This can be seen all throughout the book of Acts.

Early writings from the church fathers show that these early Christians considered one to be a part of the church after he was baptized.

I think I may try to build up a relationship with Mr. Saut, or else just send some literature his way when _Hell's Best-Kept Secret_ comes on the market here in Indonesian.

How do church planters and others on this list deal with issues related to evangelism? What do you do when coworkers tell someone who doesn't know about Jesus to just 'repeat this prayer' and be saved, without explaining the cross and the resurrection?

Many of us are into leaving behind traditions that have built up over the centuries. What about the altar call and sinner's prayer traditions? Should we leave them behind as well? Should we modify them?

In Christ,

Link Hudson

 End of N T Church Planting Digest V1 #29




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