A biennial conference for pastors
April 12 – 14, 2016 Louisville, KY
Great quote on Elizabeth's humility in her greetings and song when Mary came to visit (Luke 1:39-45).
"He who elevates himself is constantly engaged in wrecking his own life. But he who is sincerely humble finds richness of life and happiness." Reminded me of C.J. when I read it. The full quote is here.
And I especially like this part of the quote about Elizabeth, which also embodies C.J.'s person and preaching: "her humble attitude opened for her the gates to true, deep and jubilant joy."
Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) once said: "We have sunk to a depth at which re-statement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." I think this is even truer today than when he first said it. Now, more than then, there is a flood of (trivial) knowledge and a dearth of true wisdom.
And this point certainly applies to our articulation of the Bible’s doctrine of the church, in light of current fads and practices and methods being deployed in evangelicalism. That’s one reason why my favorite Pyro Po-motivator Poster is the one that says: "Ecclesiology: Who Cares Whether We Know How It’s Supposed to Work? We’re Going to Take a Crack at Fixing It."
By the way, I may keep running this title line "Shrewdness from the Sons of this World" when I point to wisdom from unbelievers (ala Luke 16:8) here in a post. For indeed, the sons of this world often have more saavy in dealing with their own than do the sons of light.
In Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, he helpfully identifies five things that keep us from sharing the Gospel with others. Here’s my spin on these reasons from Mark’s chapter on "Why Don’t We Evangelize?"
1. Fear – of rejection, of offending 2. Ignorance – don’t know what to say, don’t know how to say it 3. Inexperience – haven’t seen it done, haven’t done it 4. Attitude – that’s just not me, leave it to the experts 5. Lack of true love – we don’t really care about the lost and their eternal destiny
In response, Mark suggests that we do twelve things:
(1) Pray – for a desire to witness to Christ, and for the opportunities. (2) Plan – to witness (who, when, how). (3) Accept – you are a witness. (4) Understand – how God uses his witnesses. (5) Be Faithful – be more concerned to be faithful to God, than for people to like you. (6) Risk – something! – invite to a meeting; share a book; befriend someone. (7) Prepare – that’s what this course is all about. (8) Look – keep your eyes open for God’s opportunities. (9) Love – cultivate a genuine love for lost people. (10) Fear – God, rather than man. (11) Stop – and realize the logic of sovereignty – "God is sovereign, therefore I’m responsible." (12) Consider – the greatness of his love to you.
We will be most effective in bearing witness to Christ if we cultivate: (1) a joyful fear of God; (2) a biblical knowledge of who we are in Christ and what the Gospel is; (3) fellowship with people who have a passion for the Gospel, and for showing and telling it; (4) a proper attitude toward the task – not a drudging "I have to share the Gospel" but a joyous "I get to be a part of God’s work of salvation;" (5) a genuine Gospel love for the lost, because of God’s Gospel love for us.
Thanks for your comments and feedback on this little series of posts on "The Gospel Course." My friend P.J. Tibayan wrote in and said: "I like the definition of evangelism and think that it is accurate. I think the "so that" helps us remember what we’re aiming at. I do want to say, however, that putting the "so that" in the definition might make someone think they are failing at evangelism when the aim is not realized. So though I’d use that definition, I’d be quick to emphasize that our responsibility, and therefore the standard of failure or faithfulness, is explaining the news clearly so that they understand the news. We aim at true conversion, but we understand that we are not responsible to convert, but to faithfully witness with love and honesty."
Thanks P.J. Yes, I fully agree. J.I. Packer discusses this very issue (in a typically helpful manner) in his chapter "Puritan Evangelism" in A Quest for Godliness (page 291). My definition of evangelism in The Gospel Course, is swiped from him.
Here it is again. "Evangelism is To bear witness to Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that  people may come to put their trust in God, through Christ;  to acknowledge Him as their Savior; and  to serve Him as their King,  in the fellowship of His Church."
The Anglican document Packer quoted (dating from 1918) put it this way: "so to present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church." Packer says this is a good definition "with one word changed (‘may’ for ‘shall’, so that evangelism is defined in terms of purpose rather than results)."
So, he’s making the same point that P.J. makes, and I concur heartily with both Dr. Packer and P.J. My "so that" in the definition is deliberately included to indicate our purpose, not the invariable result of faithful evangelism.
One of the things we did in our time together in The Gospel Course was wrestle with the question: what is evangelism? Our answer was drawn from reflection on a definition that J.I. Packer draws his reader’s attention to in his chapter on evangelism in A Quest for Godliness (and elsewhere in his writings). Here’s how it goes.
Evangelism is To bear witness to Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that  people may come to put their trust in God, through Christ;  to acknowledge Him as their Savior; and  to serve Him as their King,  in the fellowship of His Church.
That definition of evangelism helps us in at least six ways. First, it makes clear that evangelism is about pointing people to the objective reality of the person of Jesus Christ, his claims and his work. Evangelism is first and foremost about telling his story, not our story. Second, it makes clear that we are utterly powerless to bring about the conversion, the transformed life, that we long to see in the lives of those with whom we share the truth of the marvelous grace of our loving Lord. No, for that result, we are entirely (and deliberately) dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. Only he can raise the dead and give new life. Third, this definition of evangelism expects the response of genuine faith, saving trust, receiving and resting on Christ alone for salvation as he is offered in the Gospel – in all who are awakened to new life. Fourth, it reminds us of the uniqueness of Christ. He is the only savior, and so, for salvation, people must put their trust in him and in him alone. Fifth, embracing Christ as Lord and King is a sine qua non for every true convert and disciple. Just as their is no such thing as justification without sanctification, so also there is no embracing Jesus as savior without embracing him as master. He is, after all, the Lord Jesus Messiah. Sixth, to be a disciple of Jesus means to be a part of his people and to be nurtured and to serve in the midst of the assembly of the saints. When we are united to him, we are united to his people. We cannot be united to him and indifferent to his people, or deliberately detached from them.
We also spent several weeks considering and elaborating on the question: What is the Gospel?
Here’s one thing we observed. "The Gospel, the euangelion, ‘the joyful tidings’, ‘the good news’, (has an OT background in Is. 4066, where the verb euangelizomai, ‘bring good news’, is used in the LXX) of God the Father’s costly and loving bestowal of saving mercy on the undeserving and rebellious, through the death of his Son, it is thus a gift of grace alone, the need for which salvation is manifested in repentance and received by faith." This reminded us that the Gospel is a message. I love what Tim Keller (following Martyn Lloyd-Jones) says. The Gospel is good news, not good advice. It is about what God has done, not what we need to do to help ourselves. This also means that the Gospel has to be spoken, proclaimed. When people say: "Preach the Gospel daily – Use words if necessary," Tim provocatively but rightly says: they may not understand the Gospel. The Gospel must be shared with words. It is a message. We can’t tell it with our deeds (though our lives must reveal it effects). There is no such thing as wordless evangelism.
We also observed that in the book of Acts, the basic elements of the Gospel message in the preaching of the Apostles (to both the Jews and Gentiles) are: 1. the prophecies have been fulfilled and the new age inaugurated by the coming of Christ; 2. he was born into the family of David; 3. he died according to the Scriptures, to deliver his people from this evil age; 4. he was buried, and raised again the third day, according to the Scriptures; 5. he is exalted at God’s right hand as Son of God, Lord of living and dead; 6. he will come again to judge the world and consummate his saving work.
We listened to John Piper tell us how, 1. The Gospel is a plan, 2. The Gospel is an event, 3. The Gospel is an achievement (through that event), 4. The Gospel is freely offered, 5. The Gospel is applied, 6. The Gospel brings us to God as our treasure, and 7. The Gospel has one hope. [Okay, okay, I added the seventh point, because of the eschatological focus and context of the Christian life].
We’ll continue on this theme in the next post.
One of the things I had the pleasure of chatting with Al Mohler about when I was in Louisville Friday last week was the evangel, the Gospel itself. I think that all the particpants in T4G share a passion that local congregations of Christians would be characterized by a Gospel culture, a Gospel-sharing culture, a culture of evangelism.
By that I mean:  that your whole congregation would be able to articulate the Gospel, personally, in a compelling and understandable way;  that your whole congregation would understand the importance and necessity of their lives, their prayers and their participation in Gospel witness;  that your whole congregation would deeply care about conversions (and I would lay stress here, that we are talking about real conversions, not numbers; disciples, not decisions; changed lives, not merely prayed prayers);  that your whole congregation would earnestly and regularly pray for conversions, talks about their own conversions and the conversions of others, and put a priority on people coming to know God; and  that your whole congregation would be excited about the Gospel itself, and not simply about a method of sharing the Gospel, or a training program.
To this end in my own congregation, it was my joy this last autumn to spend thirteen weeks of Wednesday nights, meeting with about 115 of our members, in what we called "The Gospel Course." The aim of our study in the Gospel Course was (among other things), to provide participants with: (1) a fuller understanding of the Gospel; (2) an opportunity to hone and articulate their Christian testimony; (3) an opportunity to be instructed in, observe and engage in Gospel conversations; (4) a simple, biblical, outline of the Gospel; (5) encouragements and helps to share (or more effectively share) the Gospel; (6) an opportunity to help better the evangelism equipping of our congregation; (7) the opportunity to see how all pastors of the church are involved in gospel witness; and (8) encouragement and instruction on how to engage others in the church in this Gospel culture.
Our assigned reading was: The Bible; Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism and Thabiti Anyabwile’s What is a Healthy Church Member?
I plan to share, here, over the next several weeks some of the material we prepared and presented in that setting. I hope it will prove helpful to you. I solicit your comments, criticisms, suggestions and questions. And feel free to use and improve the material as you see fit (but if you do improve it, please share it back with me!).
Thanks to Chris Larson of Ligonier Ministries for this post. Ligonier is helping spread the word with materials from T4G ’08. Chris also reminds you that registration of T4G ’10 will open in May of ’09. Note to self.
Having been shamed by Tim Challies at our blogging indolence, I guess we’re going to have to start posting again!
And, by the way Tim, how did you find out?
Thanks again to all of you who have blogged about, or emailed us, or written comments here on the T4G site about your experience at T4G last week. That you have been helped and encouraged brings us much joy because our desire and aim was bound up in serving you and encouraging radically Gospel-oriented life and ministry.
For those of you interested, Tim Challies has a good roundup of T4G resources here. The Christian Post weighed in on T4G here. Collin Hansen (Christianity Today) has offered his account here. Ken Sande (Peacemaker Ministries) gives his take here. And Marshall Shelley (Leadership) submits his mostly positive assessment here.
I plan to walk through a review of T4G here on the blog over the next few days (and maybe weeks) and share some things I learned, and comment upon some particularly meaningful points of edification of which I was a beneficiary.
A bunch of you have asked for a list of the books that we gave away at T4G last week. Matt Schmucker has come to my rescue with the list. Thanks Matt! Oky friends, here it is: