6
Sep
2017
0

Worker Spotlight: Robert & Julie Steiner

I, Robert, was born in 1938 near Algoma, Wisconsin, to dairy-farming parents. Both of my parents were practicing Roman Catholics; so, of course, I was baptized as an infant, and grew up in Catholic church.

Before Christ

When I was old enough to understand, something of the world around me, I realized that the World War II was over and the great depression that preceded it was over as well. Many transitions were taking place during this era. Early on, my father did some of the field work with horses; but as time went on, tractors and mechanization took over. I went to grade school in a one-room schoolhouse located on the edge of our farm; consequently, high school was a bit of a shock. When I began attending high school I joined the Future Farmers’ organization and soon grew determined to follow in my father’s footsteps. After high school I attended a fifteen-week Farm Short Course at the UW College of Agriculture. At age 22, I enlisted in the U. S. Army and served 6 years of active duty/active reserves.

Julie was born in the same county to Roman Catholic parents as well. Her father was employed at one of the major meat packers in Green Bay. Midway through high school her family moved near Green Bay, where she graduated from high school. Following graduation, Julie worked in retail sales in a large department store.

We met in late 1961 at a wedding dance that neither of us was invited to. We began to date and were engaged a year later. Following our marriage, in August of 1963, we farmed together with my parents for a number of years, until taking the farm over in 1974. Dairy farming is time and labor intensive, so much of our time was dedicated to that endeavor, as well as involvement in farm organizations and cooperatives. During those years, the Lord blessed us with two daughters and then a son.

We were very involved in our local Roman Catholic church as well. I was president of the parish council, at one point and Julie served on the school board. The teachings of that church were all that we knew. The Bible was just a big book turned open on a stand in our living room—sort of an ornament.

Time of Searching

In the late seventies with the stresses of the farm, and raising a family, Julie became a bit disillusioned with her circumstances, in comparison to what her expectations had been. In God’s providence, the “Jesus Movement” and the charismatic movement in the Catholic church began manifesting themselves in our area. Some of her friends became involved in the Bible studies and luncheons that were held, and they invited Julie to attend. She began to hear things from the Bible, things previously unknown to us. At first I wasn’t too interested because, after all, we were in the true church. But as time went on, we began to discuss some of the things she heard. Our veterinarian, an elder in the assembly with which we would eventually fellowship, gave us Bibles. As president of a local Christian radio station, he encouraged us to listen to the programs, soon we were hearing good Bible-based preaching.

Eventually, we began to notice differences, radical ones, between the teachings of the Catholic Church and the Bible’s teachings—namely salvation by faith alone, the Lord’s Supper, and absence of praying to Mary. We encountered some difficulty understanding what exactly “the new birth” was and how it came about. Eventually, in December of 1980, we both trusted Jesus Christ alone to be our Savior and Lord and experienced that new birth. In May of 1981 we started attending the assembly that has since become Country Bible Church.

A New Relationship

Before we were saved, we probably saw each other as the most important person in our lives. All of that changed now. There was a new person, One more important than our spouse, in each of our lives—the Man Christ Jesus, who, of course, was the eternal Son of God as well. We were saved in middle age and soon found out that there was much we didn’t know about our God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. We were biblically illiterate! We did know that we were saved beyond any doubt (1 John 5:13), an assurance we never had before. No more kneeling in the confessional before a priest, because now we could confess directly to our High Priest (1 John 1:9).

Though the dairy farm still consumed much of our time, little by little we learned biblical truth. Our assembly had one brother who had attended Emmaus Bible College, but the other men who taught had no Bible college education. Some coming from outside might have said that they were “uneducated and untrained men” (Acts 4:13). But all the brothers who taught knew Jesus and loved His Word, the Bible. Christian radio was another venue that aided us in our Christian growth and walk.

One of the blessings and privileges of fellowship in a New Testament assembly is the opportunity to use spiritual gifts. At some point in time, I was asked to speak at our Sunday evening meetings, and eventually at our Family Bible Hour on Sunday morning. There came a time when the elders saw leadership ability in me and asked me to join them in the oversight of the assembly.

Mid-Life Changes

Not long after being saved, I had a desire to be involved in ministry to a greater degree—perhaps attending a Bible college or seminary would better equip me. So we put our dairy farm up for sale—and it was up for sale for many, many years. (The Lord has His timetable for His own.) Finally, in 1997, part of the farm sold. Our son owns the remainder of the farm; he and his family are in fellowship in our assembly. But did I want to enroll in a Bible college at sixty years of age? The Lord, in His providence, helped with that dilemma. In February of 1998, Country Bible Church commended me as a local worker. I have appreciated so much the opportunity they gave me. I do some of our teaching and lead Bible studies as well. I write an article for our weekly bulletin, and visit our elderly and shut-ins at home, hospitals, or residential facilities. Julie helps me with the visitation and provides hospitality for visiting speakers.

Filling A Need

Even before I was commended, Julie and I had begun to take training in biblical counseling at Faith Baptist in Lafayette, Indiana, because we realized there was a need for that ministry in our local assembly. After our commendation, I earned an undergraduate degree in biblical counseling from Trinity Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana, in addition to training received at various seminars and conferences. I want to emphasize that our counseling is truly biblical, rather than integrational. Julie has been very helpful in this ministry, especially when counseling women. The counseling ministry that Country Bible Church has provided has been a benefit for our assembly, as well as for men and women from outside the assembly.

6
Sep
2017
0

Salvation Stories: Tony Celota

As told to Jabe Nicholson.

Anthony, son of Guiseppe Cetola, was born November 24, 1912 in Foggia, Italy, and raised in the hill country south of Rome. As a young man he worked as a shepherd there, but hearing of America, the land of possibilities, he saved his lire until he could afford the least expensive one-way passage to New York. After an arduous journey, Tony settled in New Jersey. Life was hard in his new country. Tony found a bed at the YMCA and a job working the graveyard shift, from 11 to 7.

One morning, as he wearily headed for his bed, someone offered him a small pamphlet. Its title read simply, “The Bread of Life.” Now Tony Cetola had been warned before he left Italy about people like this who wanted to brainwash good Catholics. He didn’t want to take any chances, but he had also been taught to be polite. What should he do?

He took the tract, but when he had a moment of privacy on the bus, he surreptitiously tore the tract into small pieces and slipped it back into his pocket. He would have to wait for a later time to dispose of it. But with his bed waiting, he completely forgot about the torn pieces in his pocket.

One morning some days later, Tony stood waiting for his bus. He was tired and cold. Rain began to fall. He moved to stand under the awning of a nearby bakery. The smell of fresh baked goods wafted to his nostrils. Tony’s stomach reminded him that he was very hungry, but he had no money to spare. To warm his hands he shoved them deep into his pockets.

And felt the gospel tract. He remembered the title: “The Bread of Life,” and couldn’t help a hint of a smile from sitting across his face. He knew God was speaking to him. The rain from heaven had moved him to stand near enough to the bakery to enjoy its smells. The chill wind from heaven had caused him to push his hands into his pocket at that moment. And the message from heaven was waiting, though torn in pieces, there in his grasp.

As soon as Tony arrived at his room, he began to reassemble the tract pieces until he could, although with some difficulty, read the message he now believed was sent from God Himself. On that cold, drizzly New Jersey morning, after a long night of manual labor, Tony Cetola realized his true hunger was in his heart, a hunger for God’s Bread, the Lord Jesus, and salvation through His name.

There in the YMCA, at the age of 22, he heard the words of the Savior as if they were directly to him, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51). He received Him, and his soul was satisfied. He found a group of believers, and for the next 67 years, Tony Cetola quietly and humbly served the One who had redeemed him. It could well be given as his testimony the words of 1 Timothy 6:6, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

On his deathbed, the one-time shepherd boy from the Southern Apennines looked up at his son. Barely able to speak, he asked if they could sing one of his favorite songs:

I have a Shepherd, One I love so well,
How He has blessed me tongue can never tell,
On the cross he suffered, shed His blood and died,
That I might ever in His love confide.
Following Jesus, ever day by day,
Nothing can harm me when He leads the way;
Darkness or sunshine, whate’er befall,
Jesus, the Shepherd, is my All in All.
Pastures abundant doth His hand provide,
Still waters owing ever at my side,
Goodness and mercy follow on my track,
With such a Shepherd nothing can I lack.
When I would wander from the path astray,
Then He will draw me back into the way;
In the darkest valley I need fear no ill,
For He, my Shepherd, will be with me still.
When labors ended and the journey done,
Then He will lead me safely to my home;
There I shall dwell in rapture sure and sweet,
with all the loved ones gathered round His feet.
(Lyrics by Leonard Weaver)

This article originally appreared in Uplook magazine – as retold by Jabe Nicholson

6
Sep
2017
0

Moving Beyond Mediocrity

The scene is a far too familiar one: the regularly scheduled elders’ meeting begins with a brief, but generalized, time of prayer. It is then followed by the usual routine of going around the table, asking each elder what he would like to discuss. The suggestions usually range from the urgent to the trivial – and everything in between. The discussion may be punctuated with a passionate exchange of differing opinions, or it may simply proceed in the typical, unexciting “business as usual” format.  A few important items may be discussed at length, but by the end of the meeting, it resembles more of an administrative task force than a spiritual, strategic planning and implementation think tank.  Unfortunately, the minutia of assembly life often wins the day – the withering details that cause the heads and hands to droop even lower than when the meeting first began —and it comes to a rushed and nebulous conclusion.

If this has been your experience in the meetings in which you serve as an elder, take heart – you are not alone! Too many elders’ meetings are characterized by such a routine, a routine that needs to be adjusted, if not radically overhauled, if the local church is to make a difference in the world. Considering the gravity of the present decline in our culture, it is incumbent upon all elders to maximize their time, sharpen their focus, and identify and address the significant spiritual issues affecting congregational life. True, there will always be minor “housekeeping” details that need to be addressed, but to exclude the more serious issues that require deeper spiritual dredging should never be neglected. These issues need to be brought up for discussion, prayerfully examined, and properly dealt with. The vitality and well-being of the congregation is at stake, a condition for which the elders will have to one day give an account ( Heb. 13:17).  If the elders don’t do the job, who will? With this in mind, I would like to suggest some helpful reminders to revitalize and improve the elders’ meetings.

Prepare Your Heart

Prior to the elders’ meeting, each elder should privately commit this meeting to the Lord in prayer. As under-shepherds of God’s heritage, prayer for everything affecting the local assembly should be the regular exercise of every elder. Since this position was one that was desired (1 Tim 3:1), there should be a readiness to bathe their responsibility in prayer and an eagerness to do so. Done regularly, this can only help to elevate the tone of the meeting and steer it away from the mundane. In so doing, elders can practically demonstrate what Paul exhorted the Philippians to do, to “approve the things that are excellent” (Phil. 1:10).

Establish an Agenda

Another helpful reminder for effective elder’s meetings is to be prepared with an agenda ahead of time—not your agenda, but the elders! The temptation can arise to come to this meeting without adequate preparation and simply react to the items that are put on the table. Without proper forethought on the part of each elder, effective elder’s meetings will struggle to stay afloat. To facilitate this, elders in some fellowships arrange in advance to collect agenda items in order to assemble and prioritize a master list. This can be done through emails or phone calls to a designated elder, who collects all agenda items. This will help keep the meeting on track and effectively move it along at an even pace. Each elder should certainly be encouraged to keep an ongoing list between meetings so that there is not a frantic last-minute attempt to assemble such a list.

Budget Your Time

Another important element of effective elders’ meetings and a must if they are to be revitalized, is to adequately budget the time allotted. The length of the meetings may vary among local congregations, but one thing is usually the same— items brought up first on the agenda have the luxury of being given a lot more consideration time, while items that come up at the end are time-deprived. This is accentuated when the typical order is routinely followed, and the elder who unfortunately is last in line has only minutes to talk about the items on his list. This is why a pre-arranged and prioritized list is so important—it avoids a lopsided agenda and keeps the discussion balanced. If this is the format followed, try switching it up and changing the order. In the same vein, try also alternating who leads the discussion each month, quarter, or year. It will go a long way in keeping things fresh.

Stay on Track

Staying on track is also an imperative for effective elders’ meetings. We have all experienced the curse of getting off course. The question is asked: “How is brother so-and-so doing after his surgery?” “Well, he’s fine. He is out of rehab, but his car is in the shop”.  To which another elder replies: “Maybe we need to arrange rides for him. By the way, have we serviced the church van lately?” Another elder replies, “No, not lately. Who is responsible anyway for servicing the van and why don’t we get a maintenance schedule established? This is a problem and we need to fix it”. And off the discussion goes into orbit, requiring a lasso a mile long to bring it back. A simple question of asking how a person in the assembly is doing ends up going in a completely different direction. And we wonder why we run out of time by the end of the meeting! If we are to accomplish what really needs to be accomplished, it will require disciplined thinking, planning, and the ability to bring the discussion back into focus. That is not easy to do, but it is critical!  It is standard operating procedure in the business world; why not do it even better in the house of God, which is the “pillar and ground of truth”? (1 Tim. 3:15)

Keep Good Notes

Finally, there is a need to record items discussed and decisions rendered if we are to have effective elders’ meetings. We so easily forget and need our memories jogged as to the details surrounding certain decisions, especially in the months afterwards. Notes should be taken, duplicated, and stored for easy retrieval. Copies should be promptly provided to each of the elders. A collective “To Do” list which would include specifics and dates for which items on the list are to be accomplished should be assembled. Furthermore, efforts should be taken to employ every elder for the tasks at hand. This helps avoid the “armchair elder” syndrome that can characterize many elders’ meetings – a lot of talk, but little or no action.

Effective elders’ meetings are definitely needed if we are to make any spiritual headway for Christ. These are just a few suggestions for elders to help things run more smoothly in a job that receives very little thanks. Regardless, it is a position that should emote from every member of the local church an attitude of acknowledgement, submission, and loving respect for those who serve the Lord in this way (Heb.13:7, 17, 24). Anything that can be done to make elders’ meetings more efficient and more effective will help foster appreciation for the challenging work in which elders are engaged.

6
Sep
2017
0

Why I Like the Midweek Prayer Meeting

By: Brian Gunning.

I like the mid-week prayer meeting. I feel sorry for Christians who cannot make it due to legitimate demands of work and family. I feel even sorrier for Christians who can make it to prayer meeting but choose not to. Here’s why mid-week prayer meeting should be on every believer’s schedule.

✔ It is a time of spiritual refreshment in the midst of a hostile world. All week long we are confronted with this world. Its constant assault can dull our spiritual senses and wear us down in spiritual apathy. The prayer meeting is a great way to get refocused on the thing that really matters. We need the prayer meeting to keep us sharp spiritually. We can never have too much exposure to spiritual things. Let the busyness of life crowd out other things, but not the prayer meeting.

✔ The prayer meeting connects us with fellow believers. The writer to the Hebrews challenged us to meet frequently (Heb. 10:25) for mutual encouragement and to avoid the danger of abandoning the assembling of ourselves together. We minister to others and others ministered to us when we attend at prayer meeting.

✔ Prayer changes things. The collective prayer of God’s people is a powerful force. Yes, we do pray privately too. But there is added force when believers assemble together to pray. It supports so many lives and ministries. The very health of your assembly depends on men and women who know how to pray.

✔ The mid-week prayer meeting presents an ideal opportunity for younger men to learn to develop gifts in preaching, song leading, and chairing meetings. Young men, be there! And the rest of us should be there, too, to support the next generation.

✔ It is an ideal time to hear missionary reports. With today’s technology, we can have live presentations from missionaries all over the world. Hearing and praying for other ministries beyond our own local area is healthy for every assembly. Who knows what future missionaries are sitting right in your prayer meeting? And who knows what an impact we can have in some work on the other side of the world?

✔ The prayer meeting is mandated in the New Testament. The early church continued in prayer according to the book of Acts (Acts 2:42). It was not just occasional but steadfast (Acts 12:5). If we claim to be New Testament churches, then we need to follow the example and likewise be steadfast in prayer. So how is your schedule this week? Will you and your family make room for prayer meeting? Don’t miss this blessing from heaven.

6
Sep
2017
0

Report: Eastside Bible Fellowship

East Lawrence, KS
By: Mark Schoenberg.

Eastside Bible Fellowship began about four years ago in East Lawrence, Kansas. Leading up to this, the Lawrence Bible Chapel had targeted this area for a new assembly. On Wednesday evenings, several car loads of people from the homeless shelter and Salvation Army would be transported to the Lawrence Bible Chapel for Bible study followed by a meal with the welcoming believers. There were other contacts through an established women’s Bible study at the local county jail. Neighborhood visitation by Samuel Mutfwang (now back in Nigeria, his homeland) helped bring about a weekly neighborhood Bible study at the East Lawrence Recreation Center. It was the only church some of the attendees knew and they called it “church.”

During this time in June 2010, the GNOM Team and “Good News, Eastern Kansas” made East Lawrence one of their targeted areas. Three thousand packets were hung on doors. Ministries included Kids’ Club at a local park and Cowboy Clinic for kids at a housing complex. The Lord opened up several venues, (Douglas County Jail) for Vicki Gaynier’s dramatic presentation of Corrie Ten Boom, Jabe Nicholson spoke on the subject “Does God Care?” at the downtown Community Building. One of the contacts from that summer was brother Keith, who continues to meet with us. We also met Stan, who called the designated phone number in response to the “Need Prayer, We Care” magnet. He doesn’t know how the magnet ended up on his refrigerator, but he was feeling far from God and longed for spiritual reality. He was one of two strangers who agreed to meet on a dark Tuesday evening in a thunderstorm at the South Park Gazebo. That was the beginning of a one-on-one Bible Study. Later, this Native American man was hired to remodel the Palathe Indian Center, which would became the home of Eastside Bible Fellowship. The building had been purchased by a local believer who hoped that it would be used for the Gospel. Its purchase was quite remarkable, in that it was never publicly listed on the market, but became available after inquiry was made.

Joe Bradshaw and Mark Schonberg (deacons at the Lawrence Bible Chapel) were exercised to ask the elders for their approval to start a new meeting. The elders said they would pray about it for a year. Meanwhile discussion continued. About a year later the elders said they were in full agreement. (At the time it seemed like a long wait, but definitely worth it. We have continued to enjoy good unity and heartfelt prayer support from the larger meeting, and the elders come and speak on Sundays from time to time.) How do you go from deciding to start a meeting to actually doing it? What level of management by the parent assembly is required? Not really knowing the answer, nothing happened for a while. Then the Workers and Elders Conference came to Kansas City in the fall of 2012, hosted by The Bible Chapel of Shawnee. The subject was ‘passing the baton’. Some of the elders from Lawrence attended. Several weeks later, they called Joe and Mark to meet with them. They said, “give us a date” and December 9 was decided upon. In advance of that date, at the fall conference, the local elders prayed and laid hands on Joe and San Bradshaw, and Mark and Mona Schonberg. On December 9, 2012, they and several other dear believers began meeting at the new building in East Lawrence. The next Sunday, Stan, Jr. visited for the first time. We had seen him on the roof of the building shingling with Stan, his father; but never inside. “Zaccheus…come down.” He made a profession of faith that very day after the fellowship meal, and was later baptized.

People have come and gone. A few have stayed, so we have grown a little. Our gathering is too small to hide interpersonal issues, which is good incentive to make things right. We are excited about “simple church” and enjoy gathering like a family. Generally, if visitors stay, it is because they are loved. Love is of God, largely untapped and underestimated. Please pray that we would grow in love and truth.

East Lawrence remains in need of Gospel witness and our efforts are feeble. Without a doubt people would respond if visited. We visited to home of one lady who came the next Sunday. She told us with tears, “We were waiting for you.” Often Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons precede us to the door in the community. It is a sad commentary that we are compelled to clarify, “No, we are not them”. On a positive note, two of us were visiting with an unbeliever on the sidewalk. Two young ladies walked up and gave us each a Gospel tract. They were Bible-believing Baptists concerned about our souls!

We are grateful for the many believers who have prayed and helped us. If you are in the area, come visit! We meet downstairs. (The upstairs is rented out to the Boys and Girls Club)

Eastside Bible Fellowship, 1423 Haskell Ave, Lawrence, KS 66044

Sunday
9:00 Prayer,
9:30 Remembrance,
10:30 Ministry

Monday
7:00 Bible Study

Elders: Mark Schonberg 785-766-0867 Joe Bradshaw 785-865-6655

“For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” 2 Cor. 4:15

4
Sep
2017
0

EDITORIAL: Taking The Gospel To The Unsaved

In 1960, D. James Kennedy graduated from seminary and began preaching at the Coral Ridge Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL. After just eight months of ministry there, the congregation dwindled from 45 to 17 believers. Although he was very discouraged about what was happening, he would not give up. He realized the problem was that he lacked courage to confront unbelievers with the truth of the gospel. To his surprise, he was invited to Decatur, GA to conduct a gospel campaign for ten days. He preached each evening, but during the mornings and afternoons, he received training and visited homes, presenting the gospel door-to-door. Those experiences at the doorways of the unsaved would transform his ministry completely. After the evangelistic campaign, he returned to the Coral Ridge Church, where he implemented the principles he had learned in Georgia—he called these principles “Evangelism Explosion.” By presenting unsaved men and women with the claims of the gospel on their doorsteps, the Coral Ridge Church grew from 17 individuals to over 2,000 in nine years. These simple door-to-door evangelistic principles would be the means of winning thousands to Christ in the United States and throughout the world.

Door to Door Evangelism Answers Its Critics

Door-to-door evangelism is one of the few ways that each family in a city can be reached with the gospel. The Lord has effectively used this method throughout the history of the church, from the time of the early church (Acts 20:20) to the modern day. Today, church leaders are calling for renewed efforts in teaching and training Christians how to use door-to-door evangelism, proving the timelessness of this evangelistic method. In a study of the fastest growing 576 Southern Baptist churches in the U.S., Southern Baptist researcher Dr. Thomas Rainer concluded that traditional door-to-door evangelism was still a very useful evangelistic method. In the churches surveyed, 50.2% of these churches ranked weekly door-to-door evangelism as one of their most effective evangelistic tools. Bill Hohenstreet, of Post Falls Baptist Church in Post Falls, Idaho states that door-to-door visitation was critical to their evangelistic outreach. He explained that their primary outreach efforts were door-to-door, cold-call visitation, and Tuesday evening visitation using a prospect list. This church of two hundred saw forty-eight individuals come to faith in Jesus Christ and baptized in 1996. “Churches that rated door-to-door evangelism highly did not believe that it was any less effective or resistance to visits was any greater than in years past.”  Churches throughout the United States are beginning to find that consistent evangelistic visitation, when followed up with literature, Bible study, and hospitality are effective means in winning the lost to Christ.

Nevertheless, door-to-door evangelism is not without its critics. Since 1973 church growth experts have unwisely labeled this method as old-fashioned and ineffective in modern society. However, recent studies have challenged the validity of these widely-held convictions of church growth researchers. Thomas Rainer, who conducted a survey of the fastest growing churches, speaks of this issue when he writes, “But what about the studies of growing churches which made the conclusion that traditional door-to-door evangelism was on the decline? The research of those studies was based on growing churches, not necessarily churches that were increasing in size by conversion growth. In fact, many of the churches were hardly growing at all through new converts, but by Christians who were leaving one church to join another. Additionally, the other studies rarely looked at more than forty to fifty churches; our research is based upon a study of over 500 churches.”  The results of this recent study have soundly contradicted the tenaciously-held beliefs of church growth experts. This fact has caused concern among many church leaders, and has led them to re-examine their evangelistic methods. Many are beginning to see that traditional methods are indeed Biblical, important, and effective means for producing conversion growth in churches.

Door to Door Evangelism Works!

Evangelism is not a special activity for special people at special times. It is the normal activity of all Christians as the Lord gives opportunity. There is a great need not only to invite the unsaved to hear the gospel, but to take the gospel to the unsaved. Presenting Christ door-to-door puts the “go” back into evangelism and emphasizes the “woe” of personal responsibility. A church’s evangelistic effort should be a blend of youth and children’s ministries, evangelistic Bible studies, prayer, regular gospel campaigns, and individual witnessing. But church leaders are coming to the conclusion that door-to-door evangelism is an essential if a church is serious about contacting an entire community for Christ.

4
Sep
2017
0

Establishing New Testament Assemblies in North America

By: Warren Henderson.

During the apostolic era, pioneering efforts pertained to missionaries visiting regions that had never heard of Jesus Christ previously. Though believers were rigorously opposed by the devil, many souls were saved and new local churches sprang up throughout the Roman Empire. Those responding to the gospel were to be discipled and cared for in local church fellowships (Matt. 28:19-20; Heb. 10:25). This generalizes the scriptural pattern for pioneering ministry.

The Modern Challenge

The present dynamic in North America is quite different than in New Testament (NT) days. The modernized Church is not persecuted and is mostly ignored. Our post-modern society already has some notion of Jesus Christ, but on the whole it has rejected Him through humanism, invented religion, or disregard. Many local churches have become places for social gatherings, entertainment, professionalism, and religious form. Paul and Barnabas planted churches with a clean slate; however, the pattern and order they established is contrary to what is accepted in “churchianity” today. So, barring another Great Awakening to revive the pampered Church from her slumber, how do we carry on the great commission today?

Outreach Ministry

Evangelism is a life-style; all Christians are called to be witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:8). The Church is to actively exalt God, edify believers, and evangelize the lost. If any of these upward, inward, and outward ministries is neglected a local church will wane in time. When our assemblies decrease, we often think that stepping up evangelistic efforts will rectify the problem; but often such declines occur because of poor body-life, sin, or displacing Christ and His word. Acts chapters 2-6 show us that reproduction is a normal part of healthy church life. Proper discipleship protects new converts from falling prey to flesh-appeal and false teachers (Eph. 4:14). Upholding Christ’s Lordship resolves most church problems and keeps everyone’s focus where it should be (1 Cor. 1:1-10).

The Church has employed various outreach methods through the centuries. Scripture poses two evangelistic metaphors: the fisherman (representing one-on-one witnessing) and the farmer (who casts gospel seed over many soils or heart-conditions). When a fisherman casts a line into the water, the result is quickly known —a fish is caught or not. However, the farmer understands that there will not be a harvest in the future unless seeds are sown now. Beloved, it is wrong to neglect seed-sowing activities just because we do not see immediate results. The Church in North America has largely adopted a business mentality, and has become focused largely on enticements and numerical results rather than following the scriptural example. So our outreach ministries should include things like: backyard and after-school kids’ clubs, ESL classes, reaching out to refugees, open-air preaching, door-to-door work, and literature tables/booths at college campuses, flea markets, and county/state fairs.

Our Experience in Establishing New Testament Assemblies

My wife and I were introduced to the NT Church pattern almost 35 years ago in a hive-off work to establish a new local church. Since that time we have labored to establish new assemblies as the Lord has blessed with new converts. We have many lessons-learned, thrilling stories, and also disappointments. It is important to realize that not all outreach work is for the purpose of seeing a new assembly begin. Prison ministry, rescue missions, and attending to the poor are certainly important, but do not have this goal (nor should they). The poor and those struggling with substance abuse often respond best to the gospel (thank the Lord); however, these people require much love, time, and resources and often have a transient lifestyle. So, if the goal is to establish a new local assembly, it would be good to remember that there are just so many of these folks that can be helped, while accomplishing that objective. Later, an established assembly will be better able to reach those in need.

For us the most effective method for us of seeing people saved, discipled, and added to a new work has been through home or workplace Bible studies and children’s ministries. After-school clubs have been effective in leading several children to Christ, and in providing additional contacts for home studies. Evangelistic studies often consist of just one or two people; then after conversion, believers are placed into larger studies to build relationships. We often do not invite new believers or folks attending home studies to the local assembly for several months for two reasons: first, to build their trust in us personally (as legitimate teachers of Scripture); and second, to allow sufficient time for them to grasp and learn the truth. This is God’s work and requires patience! By introducing NT principles for gathering gradually and casually, believers begin to desire to see what a biblical church meeting looks like. Through the years, new converts have generally embraced NT principles joyfully, while those coming out of denominationalism tend to struggle, as the new pattern they are learning conflicts with what they are familiar with.

Establishing a New Testament Assembly

While having established one assembly without any outside help, I would suggest to have a starting core group of at least three like-minded families. Having other assemblies nearby is a tremendous help. Do not let the excitement of starting a new work cut short the necessary up-front dialogue of doctrine and church practices; the devil can use disagreements later to cause division and stop the effort. Established local churches have an oversight to guard the believers, so more diversity in thinking is permissible, but those in a new work must be cohesive. A detailed doctrinal statement and vision/mission statement should be developed. Then every nook and cranny of church practices should be discussed. The five “heavy-hitters” are: divorce/remarriage, Calvinism, youth ministries (including Sunday school), eschatology, and gender roles (including symbolic truth).

Other matters to be considered include: What are the meetings of the church? What type of teaching/format will be used? What type of emblems will be at the Lord’s Supper? What type of government will be formed and how should leaders be recognized? There should be agreement on charismatic issues, “easy-believism” vs. “lordship salvation”, creationism views, dispensational thinking, permissible music/instruments, Bible translations, facility goals (e.g., home, rental, or ownership of a building), and a blameless method of collecting and managing funds. Believers gather to Christ, so beware of initial clicks that can stress unity later (schooling preferences, political agendas, family clans, out-of-balance doctrine, etc.). Understand local laws and then decide whether to incorporate, pursue 501c3 status, and apply for sales tax exemption.

A church environment stressing the priesthood of all believers is important: men, women, and children should be prepared worshipers for the Lord’s Supper. Believers should be challenged to use their spiritual gifts and fulfill their callings. All should pursue holy living and be involved in church body-life.

Pressing Onward

Until the Lord returns for His Church, may we continue to pray for a reviving work of God among His people in North America, and in the interim let us be faithful to the Great Commission. We live in a dark world which desperately needs Christ and needs to see a real work of God that represents the wonder of who He really is!

4
Jul
2017
0

Editorial: The Challenge of Expository Preaching

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:2

The faithful exposition of the Word of God powerfully transforms lives. This was never more true than in the preaching ministry by the so-called “Plymouth Brethren” 150 years ago. Men of God such as Henry Moorhouse, William Kelly, C. H. Macintosh, and R. C. Chapman were exceptionally gifted expositors of the Bible. C. H. Spurgeon commented that R. C. Chapman, was one of the godliest and most gifted expositors in England. “Brethren” Bible conferences in North America and Great Britain attracted overflowing crowds of serious Christians.

The Legacy of Expository Preaching

Of all the contributions of the so-called “Plymouth Brethren” movement to the evangelical church, it may be that expository preaching is its most enduring legacy. Expository preaching had fallen into disfavor at this time. Most ministers preached topically or textually, using one text or verse and then building a sermon around the theme of the verse. The “Plymouth Brethren” did not follow this method, but introduced a verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter consecutive method of Scripture exposition. Moreover, they preached the Bible as one unified book. They demonstrated that the prophecies of the Old Testament and the teaching of the New Testament could not be isolated from one another; rather, both were essential to a proper understanding of the Bible. They took seriously the historical-grammatic method of interpretation of Scripture, and labored in the exposition of types, dispensations, and prophecies of the Bible. They were recognized as authorities on the original languages of the Scriptures, trends within theology, and biblical history and culture. This style of preaching was a refreshing change, stimulating spiritual growth and stirring great interest in the Scriptures. This unique approach virtually transformed the method in which the Bible was proclaimed and has influenced expository preaching well into our present day. The efforts of these Brethren expositors had a significant impact on L. S. Chafer, H. A. Ironside, and the founders of Dallas Theological Seminary and Moody Bible Institute, influencing the expository preaching of a whole new generation.

The Importance of Expository Preaching

As expository preaching was given great emphasis by the early “Plymouth Brethren,” leading evangelical preachers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean were quick to see its great importance. As expository preaching began to gain acceptance, the spiritual lives of many Christians were revitalized. This expository preaching movement may have contributed in part to the deep interest in the Scofield Reference Bible, the surge in missionary interest, and the Bible Prophecy Conference Movement of the late 1800s. How does expository preaching transform lives? Why is expository preaching so important? Alfred P. Gibbs, the author of The Preacher and His Preaching, explains the importance of expository preaching:

“Expository preaching puts the supreme emphasis on the Word of God. It magnifies the Word of God, and gives it the place of supreme authority… this type of preaching serves the far better purpose of edifying the people of God as the Scriptures are applied to their everyday lives. It provides an opportunity for speaking on many passages that would otherwise be neglected. By means of this method of preaching, little known truths will be given their rightful place, and it will be demonstrated that all Scripture is essential to furnish the man of God. The well-placed emphasis on expository preaching is a great tool in the hand of God for spiritual renewal.”

The Challenge of Expository Preaching

These human messengers of the oracles of God were powerfully gripped by the realization that they were handling divine truth. Therefore, faithfulness and spiritual care were essential in setting forth the truths of the Scriptures. Many hours of careful study were devoted to understanding the truth of God. These expositors, armed with the Word of God in their hearts and skilled with gift from above, brought untold blessing to many. Many were challenged by the godliness of their character, the breadth of their knowledge of the holy Word, and their commitment to the truth of God at all costs. Many who heard their ministry were changed forever. Expository preaching is the appointed way of bringing men and women face to face with the truths of God’s Word. It is God’s method of faithfully proclaiming the whole counsel of God and fully furnishing believers for service. The apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). May we take up this important challenge to passionately preach the Word of God, to proclaim it expositionally, and to faithfully make the truth of God known to a new generation!

4
Jul
2017
0

Expositional Preaching on Narrative Passages

By: Gary McBride

Much of Scripture is narrative, that is, the stories or accounts of events. The challenge for the preacher is to make the story relevant for today. There is a need to develop a lesson or lessons from the account with meaning(s) and application(s) for today. Much of Scripture is narrative, that is, the stories or accounts of events. The challenge for the preacher is to make the story relevant for today. There is a need to develop a lesson or lessons from the account with meaning(s) and application(s) for today.

Narrative as a writing style is different from poetry, found in Job to Song of Solomon, and doctrinal portions, such as the teaching in the Epistles. The stories in Scripture, whether in the Old Testament or in the Gospels or Acts, are factual historical accounts of events. These events were either known to the author or revealed by the Holy Spirit, but they are from a different time, culture, and setting than today.

Dangers in Preaching from Narrative

Preachers may be tempted to use a narrative which is not explained by the Lord or instructed by the Holy Spirit to make a point. This process may take the text far beyond what the Lord intended it to mean and outside the original purpose. Without a “thus says the Lord,” one must use care in the development of a message from the passage.

There is also the danger of allegorizing by taking the text out of the context and making it fit a pattern or support a point. Several examples from recent history may serve as illustrations. A number of years, ago some believers allegorized the story of the capture of Jericho. These people felt that if they marched around a city or a neighborhood and prayed against the forces of evil, the walls of opposition to the gospel would come down and they could claim the area for God.

Another example is The Prayer of Jabez, a bestselling book, which was based on 1 Chron. 4:10.  Jabez prayed that God would enlarge his boundaries, that God’s hand would be upon him, and that God would keep him from evil. These requests are commendable and God granted what Jabez requested. However, there is no indication that all believers of all time should pray the same prayer with assurance that God will grant their requests and prosper them.

Some preachers have invented “assembly truths” from narrative. There is a danger in developing New Testament truths from Old Testament stories. The rebuilding of walls in Nehemiah was not about assembly life, nor was the story of the rebellion of Korah. There is a vast difference between illustration and interpretation.

Developing Points from Narrative

Narrative supplies illustrations for New Testament truth. The story of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel chapter nine is a wonderful illustration of Ephesians 2:11-22, where Gentiles who were aliens and strangers become fellow citizens and members of the household of God. The travels of Israel illustrate the leading of God in the lives of His people. Some narratives are specific illustrations, such as the days of Noah, the destruction of Sodom or Balaam as a prophet for hire.

There are lessons applicable to Christian living within Old Testament narrative. We can learn from the choices made by Old Testament characters and the positive or negative consequences that ensued. Some good examples are Abraham choosing to go down to Egypt during a time of famine, Lot choosing to live in Sodom, and Ruth choosing to accompany Naomi back to Bethlehem. The various kings of Israel and Judah provide similar life lessons. Paul states in I Corinthians that there are accounts written for our instruction, admonition, and learning (10:11).

A number of Old Testament narratives reveal the person of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Himself pointed out some of these, specifically on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. There are people and events referred to as types of Christ in the New Testament. The serpent in the wilderness, the water from the rock, and the ministries of Moses and Elijah all speak of Christ. There are other stories that remind us of Christ – the life of Joseph, the person of Boaz, Joshua leading the people, and many more such accounts. Devotional teaching on Christ from the Old Testament can “warm” the hearts of God’s people and make the Old Testament come alive.

An Example of Teaching from Narrative – Exodus 35:4-35

This account is not about us, and in a primary sense is not for us; it is from a different time, place, and circumstance and for a different people. It is a great illustration of what is important to God and what is a desired response from His people. This account as an illustration is a reminder of the priority of worship for us individually and collectively at the Lord’s Supper.

  • A Command – v. 4, the Lord Jesus commanded us to  “Remember Me in …” (I Cor. 11:24)
  • A Heart Response – v. 5, 22 – a willing heart; – “whose  heart was stirred” – vv. 21, 26
  • A Spiritual Exercise – v. 21- a willing spirit
  • A Response of Love – v. 21, 24, the Lord’s offering; a  freewill offering… (v. 29)

There are Offerings:

  • Everything the people gave in some way spoke of Christ
  • What they gave was precious to them and, for the most  part, limited in supply
  • Everything they gave came from the Lord when they left Egypt
  • No one person had all the needed supplies
  • Some of the items were more precious and costly
  • All these items became part of the Tabernacle under the  direction of the Holy Spirit

Conclusion: Making an Application

This passage is an illustration. God is not asking believers today to bring physical items. It is a picture of a spiritual response to the Lord’s command. For us it may illustrate “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Giving can be forced and compliance enforced, but worship in spirit and in truth must come from the heart. God seeks worshipers but does not force this on His people. True worship is the response of a willing heart and is a matter of spiritual exercise. Any thoughts presented to the Father concerning His beloved Son come only from what the Father reveals to us. We are merely giving back what He gave to us.

No one person can ever exhaust the glories of the Lord Jesus. Each one can bring aspects that they enjoyed during the week. The thoughts presented and offered up by the Holy Spirit form a fuller picture of Christ.

There may be other devotional thoughts drawn from meditation on this passage, such as, what they brought and who it was that brought various items. Beyond that, the items are suggestive of various aspects of the person of Christ.

Remember this is narrative – it tells the story of the physical preparation for the construction of the Tabernacle. It is not about constructing a “church building,” nor is it about people in this age giving for a project. It is a story that reveals the desire of God and the appropriate response from His people.