As always, Zane Pratt challenges the church with a helpful and bold call to be rightly involved with mission around the globe.
From a biblical point of view, perhaps the most persuasive reason for going as part of a team is that the Bible has no category for a Christian who is not actively engaged in the fellowship of a church where they live. In pioneer situations, where there is no church, missionary teammates need to be church to one another.
I am so grateful for gospel-centered, glory-driven men like Andrew Fuller. He understood that the truth of the sovereignty of the supreme Creator God does not negate the gospel urgency that believers are called to be a part of. This quote gives insight into his correct understanding of God’s sovereignty and the duty of each believer, and how they wonderfully fit together.
I believe it is the duty of every minister of Christ plainly and faithfully to preach the gospel to all who will hear it; and, as I believe the inability of men to [do] spiritual things to be wholly of the moral, and therefore of the criminal kind—and that it is their duty to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and trust in him for salvation, though they do not; I therefore believe free and solemn addresses, invitations, calls, and warnings to them, to be not only consistent, but directly adapted as means, in the hand of the Spirit of God, to bring them to Christ. I consider it as part of my duty that I could not omit without being guilty of the blood of souls.
This quote was taken from John Piper’s Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission found at Desiring God.
“What’s your pastor’s name?” He asked from the back seat of the car. To which I answered with the name of the pastor I had since jr. high. However, at this time I was sitting 6000 miles away from my sending fellowship as a missionary on the field. “Ha”, he said, “see you are a member of that church, not the house church you attend here.”
While this certainly was a trick question, it got me thinking a lot about membership in a local church, especially for missionaries who are thousands of miles away from their sending fellowship. It is not just a question of “whose your pastor?” but also one of authority, performing the “one anothers”, being in community, keeping a covenant, accountability, church discipline and a myriad of other pertinent questions.
That is why I am thankful for this article from 9marks. With the help of this article, and others like it, I’ve since come to a firm conviction on the subject. But I’ll let the article speak in my stead.
In the Bible, the church’s authority over its members means a community of Christians provides ongoing affirmation that each Christian’s life agrees with their confession to follow Jesus Christ as Lord. In other words, church membership is a covenant of love and union that includes a Christian community’s ongoing assessment of a Christian’s way of life. Membership also includes a mutual promise of oversight on the part of the community and submissive involvement on the part of the Christian.
Click the paragraph to keep reading.
The Church in Antioch Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:19-26 ESV)
|| Sending || Evangelizing || Planting || Teaching || Supporting || Sending ||
In Acts 11 we see a wonderful picture of how churches around the globe can support and care for each other in order to see the gospel spread.
- Persecution causes believers to flee Jerusalem (Acts 8; 11:19)
- The Jews are evangelized (11:19b)
- The Hellenists are evangelized by “men of Cyprus and Cyrene” (11:20)
- The hand of the Lord was with them and many believed (11:21)
- A report was sent to the church in Jerusalem (11:22)
- They send Barnabas to support the work in Antioch (11:22)
- Barnabas exhorts the believers to remain faithful and have steadfast purpose (Acts 11:23)
- Many more were added to the Lord (11:24)
- Barnabas recruits Saul to work with him (11:25-26)
- For a year they discipled and taught them (11:26)
- Paul and Barnabas are sent from Antioch to the nations (Acts 13:1-3)
John Piper gives us in the west a great vision to reach, teach, support, and partner with the global south in order to reach, teach, and partner with UPGS around the globe. Click the quote to read the whole sermon.
And O how many Antiochs there are around the world yet to be created and yet to be strengthened, where we can send our Global Partners — our Barnabases and our Sauls and our unnamed men and women of Cyprus and Cyrene who cross the cultural chasms to reach the lost? Will you be one of them? Will you rededicate yourself to support those who go and to hold the ropes with rock-solid faithfulness?
In an article for the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies Dr. Jerry Rankin writes concerning the question “Do Muslims and Christians Worship the same God?”
While I wholeheartedly agree that we can and should use the word “Allah” when referring to God and witnessing with Muslims and in Muslim contexts, I do not take that to mean, as Dr. Rankin does, “there is not two separate divine beings worshipped respectively by Christians and Muslims…”. He is certainly correct when stating “there is only one God, regardless what He is called, and He can be known only through Jesus Christ,” but is misleading and wrong to say that Muslims and Christians worship the same divine being, just with “very distinct concepts.”
I prefer John Piper’s take on the matter over at Desiring God. Or Thabiti Anyabwile’s take (a former Muslim). See his video response below.
For a slightly more in-depth look, I recommend Timothy George’s “Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?”
The speaker at a large Bible conference, advocating for adherence to the fundamentals of faith and seeking to stir controversy, commented that there were missionaries who actually used “Allah,” the Muslim name for God, in their Christian witness.
The statement elicited the intended shock effect as there was an audible gasp of incredulous disbelief among the audience that this could be true. The reaction revealed a common perception that confuses linguistic distinctive with theology.
Every language has its word for “God” which is used in translation of Scripture and for proclaiming the gospel within any particular culture and language. Allah is the Arabic word for the English “God” just as “Dios” is in Spanish. It is the word that has been used for centuries by Jews and Christians in the Middle East and actually pre-dates the founding of Islam in the seventh century. Bibles translated in predominantly Muslim countries into local languages such as Indonesian, Malay and Bengali use Allah as the biblical reference to the sovereign creator God.
To not use “Allah” for God would require the use of a foreign word that would not be understood in the local language. Should a Muslim have to learn English, Greek or Hebrew in order to discuss theological concepts and understand the gospel? Ironically, the word “Allah” comes from the same root word of “Elohim” of the Old Testament, while our English word “God” has no etymological relationship to the biblical YHWH or Jehovah. In fact, it comes from the German “gott” and was derived from the name of a pagan viking deity!
Use of Allah in Muslim literature refers to the God who created Adam and Eve and the world. He is the God who brought the flood and was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (and Ishmael), as well as David, Isaiah and other prophets known in common.
To introduce another identity than the monotheistic sovereign creator deity of the Bible who is not Allah would create a greater gap and barrier to witness than trying to explain the trinitarian nature of God. The distinction in the concept of God worshipped by Christians and Muslims is one of theology. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses do not share an identical concept of God with that of evangelical and mainstream Christians, but use the same nomenclature. Should we, then, find another name for the God we worship and proclaim since there are those who have a distorted theology.
The concern is understandable that if “Allah” is used in Christian witness that the theological distortions of Muslim understanding will be carried over, resulting in syncretism or heretical concepts of God shaped by ones Islamic background. It requires adequate teaching and discipling just as it does in our own culture. How many Americans and English speakers who have never been born again, but use the word “God” have a proper understanding and concept of Him?’
We must not confuse cultural and linguistic bridges of communication in seeking to transcend diverse worldviews. Even Paul proclaimed to the people of Athens that he was there to introduce the God represented by their temple to an unknown god. Whatever the theological concepts related to that unknown god in the minds of the Athenians, it is doubtful that they were consistent with what Paul declared as revealed in Jesus Christ. But Paul established a point of identity with their worldview that he might introduce them to the true and living God.
Jews worship the true and living God and seek to live according to His laws, but do they fully understand the nature and character of God as revealed in Jesus Christ? Paul declared in Romans 10:2 that they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. There is no question that Muslims have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge of His true nature and character.
It is an intriguing question as to whether or not Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Is there more than one God? No, there is only one God, and He can be known only through knowing Jesus Christ. How compelling it should be for us to declare to Muslim friends, devout in their faith, as Paul did in Athens, “what you worship as impersonal and unknown I proclaim to you.” And we should be confident that when one comes in genuine repentance and faith to Jesus Christ that God is able to reveal Himself in spirit and truth to a new believer.
There is not two separate divine beings worshipped respectively by Christians and Muslims, but there are very distinct theological concepts of this all-powerful, creator God of the universe. There is only one God, regardless what He is called, and He can be known only through Jesus Christ.
I was tearfully overwhelmed. And I confessed the arrogance of Western missionaries — and my own arrogance. So much of what we do is about us and about what we can provide. We travel around the world to meet needs, not to be honest about our own, nor to become part of their body of Christ. We are the “haves,” and they are the “have-nots.”
Click the quote to finish reading at DesiringGod.com