Arminian Today

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What Gospel Are We Preaching?

Missions trips, evangelism tips, etc. have been a focus of mine for the last few posts.  Let me return again to missions trips just for a moment before I dive into my point here.

Let’s take the average evangelical church.  They come up when the idea that they want to go to Bolivia with on a missions trip.  The trip dates are set, fliers are posted and announcements are made that they are going to Bolivia to spread the gospel.  It is still many mouths away but people begin to register for the trip.  Some take talking into while others join right up.  In the next few months, money must be raised for each person to go on the missions trip.  The cost is set at $1800 per person.  This will include their flight to Bolivia, their place to stay (at a local Christian camp near the city of  Santa Cruz de la Sierra.  The city has over 1 million people so it’s a great place to evangelize), and their meals.  Typically a group like this will have about 20 people so let’s just make it that many.  They are going to do a Bible club for kids and some other forms of evangelism.  They also will work with the local missionaries there to do some repairs to the church buildings.  They will be there for 10 days.  Usually you also have to have  a day of “fun” (sometimes two days) where the Americans can be tourists.

I am not here to be critical of the hearts of the people who want to go on the missions trip.  Some of them truly want to make an eternal impact for the gospel.  Many others just want to visit Bolivia.  To them, this is a glorified vacation where they get to ask others to fund their trip to Bolivia.  For the missionaries in Bolivia, many of them need the workers (even for minimal jobs) and they need the cash support from the American churches to continue their mission.  If a Bolivian church where to reject Americans from coming to their churches their financial support would also be hurt by this.  They are in a no-win situation when it comes to welcoming American missions trip teams.

For me, the danger is not in people raising money to go to Bolivia or even the fact that American churches want to go on missions trips because I see the good that come from missions trips in the hearts of the people who truly are broken by the Spirit of God for the lost.  My problem is what gospel are we preaching to the lost people of Bolivia?

Here you take 20 people from an evangelical church and my question would be: do they understand the gospel and are they able to tell others the gospel?  I have watched time after time as evangelicals in the United States prepare missions teams to go to the nations but they themselves don’t know the gospel.  I have seen people sign up for mission trips who never share their own faith here in their own Jerusalem.  They act like they are burdened to go to the lost in these far off places but never share the gospel right where they are and yet we trust them to go to Bolivia and preach the true gospel?  Perhaps we should make sure they know the true gospel and have been preaching the true gospel before we send them to preach the gospel.

What is the gospel?  This is a fundamental question.  We must be able to answer this or we will never be effective witnesses for Christ.  The gospel is not the “sinner’s prayer.”  The gospel is not merely knowledge about Jesus or the Bible.  The gospel is not about being a certain type or denomination (I have seen people think that just because a nation is primarily Catholic like Bolivia then the gospel is already there).  The gospel is not about just going through some steps (the “ABC”s of the gospel).  The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).  The gospel is faith and repentance toward God after the law of God has broken our hearts over our sins (Romans 7:7; Galatians 3:23-24).  The gospel is the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5) that comes after we repent and believe.  The gospel response is to be baptized (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16; Colossians 2:12).

Yet we take a group of people who can’t articulate the gospel to nations and places all the time.  I am not saying that good can’t come from this.  Again, I think many who go on missions trips need the gospel themselves.  Some think that because they are going on a missions trip, this pleases God (Isaiah 64:6).  Yet they come to see their own depravity before a holy God and they soon either truly repent of their sins or they hide on the missions trip doing odd jobs and avoiding any talk about Christ with the lost (because they don’t know Christ either and have no clue how to tell others about Him).

What do we do?  First, we preach the gospel to our people.  We all need the gospel each and every day.  The fact that Jesus is alive and at the right hand of God is necessary for me each day.  I can’t be a disciple in my own power.  I need His grace (1 Corinthians 15:10).  Grace is what saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9) and grace is what keeps us.  I need to hear His voice daily to know Him and follow Him (John 10:27-29).  The gospel is not something that I did back then and now I am right with God but the gospel is an ongoing relationship with God through Christ Jesus alone (Romans 5:1).  My justification before a holy God, my sanctification, my discipleship – all this is based on Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  I depend on Christ to save me initially and forever (Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 7:25).  The gospel is not then something what we preach just at the end of our sermons but all the time.  The gospel is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17).

Secondly, we make sure those who want to go on a missions trip understand the gospel and have truly been born again.  God knows those who are His own (2 Timothy 2:19) but there are signs that we can see if the person has truly been saved by God’s grace (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Repentance involves the entire person and not merely a change in mind about Jesus or acknowledgement of our sins.  Biblical repentance will transform the person as they surrender to the absolute Lordship of Christ.  Our heart, mind, emotions, intellect, will, etc. are broken by the gospel and Jesus rules over them and He transforms them.

This will make an impact on the nations.  Can you imagine taking a team of 20 people who truly understand the gospel, know how to share their faith, and have been saved by the grace of Christ to Bolivia?  What would this mean not just for the gospel but for the people going?  I believe that it would strengthen them as disciples of Christ and would spread the fire of the gospel to the lost in Bolivia.  It would bless the missionaries there because they wouldn’t have to clean up the evangelical mess that typical groups from the States bring.  Instead, the gospel could go forth and God saves sinners by His grace (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

I want to post one more post on this subject and I will do that next.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/11/2014 at 12:01 PM

2 Responses

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  1. Excellent post. Looking forward to the next one!

    Gene Brode, Jr.

    06/12/2014 at 11:11 PM

  2. Some preach a gospel of belief alone. Others preach a gospel of belief and repentance which amounts to change of mind only without corresponding change of behavior. In Acts 26:20, Paul describes the gospel that he preached which should also be the pattern for our preaching.
    “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” Of course those who eschew works cannot accept the plain meaning of Paul’s message since it requires “deeds.” Our works don’t earn our salvation but as the text says it demonstrates or is the evidence of true repentance.

    Perhaps if our churches understood this one thing, then we would realize why we meet: to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb 10:24). Sadly we meet on Sundays to spectate and listen to endless sermonizing.


    06/14/2014 at 3:08 AM

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