The Wanderer

"As I walked through the wilderness of this world . . ."

Posts Tagged ‘evangelism

Ministering to the middle classes

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I am writing not from the soft streets of Niddrie but from the rocky spiritual wastelands of middle England, from the London commuter belt, from . . . Sussex! Admittedly, I live in a \’new town\’ called Crawley, which has a reputation – perhaps unfairly – for being the local sinkhole (the descendants of London\’s dregs rehoused after the Second World War), so perhaps I get a little more credibility from those who count filth and crime as badges of honour. Indeed, Crawley is so little esteemed that one of the neighbourhoods to the east of the town, a richer part of this area, has removed the name from its signs so that it does not get dragged down to our level. That said, even though it is notoriously difficult to classify the middle classes (even the BBC says so), I don\’t think that there is much doubt that I try to reach many middle class people with the gospel. Many of my labours outside the church building are either in the town square, or door to door in a neighbourhood which calls itself – perhaps inappropriately – a village. Our church planting endeavours are currently centred on an undeniable village outside of Crawley that is the very picture of middle England. All this to demonstrate that I am, largely, in the environment that Mez describes as so unpromising a field for gospel labour.

And it is.

Read the rest of my friendly rejoinder to Mez McConnell at Reformation21.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 28 January 2014 at 08:00

Posted in Missiology and evangelism

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Effective personal evangelism: summary

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Over at Reformation21 is a series on effective personal evangelism. For ease of reference, here are the links and topics:

This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but I am speaking out of a measure of experience myself and exposure to men I think are capable and faithful in carrying out this work. If we as individual Christians and members of gospel churches are to be effective personal evangelists, these are qualities that I think we must prayerfully pursue if we are to declare the gospel profitably and fruitfully. Not all Christians will be on the streets of our towns and at the doors of our communities. Some of us will do it sitting down over a cup of tea (other beverages are available) with a friend; some of us will do it around the dinner table or at the bedside, night after night, with our children; some of us will do it over a lunch time snack with a colleague; some of us will do it in a Bible study with our peers. However we do it, all of us have opportunities to make Christ known. I trust that these marks, rightly cultivated, will help us to be immediately effective in communicating the gospel faithfully to those who do not know our Saviour, and ultimately effective when we see God give the increase.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 16 December 2013 at 14:49

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What evangelism isn’t

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Mark Dever helpfully identifies five things mistaken for evangelism.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 19 November 2013 at 12:03

Ruin, redemption and regeneration

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Thoughts on evangelism drawn from Spurgeon’s three Rs.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 6 November 2013 at 13:47

Street preaching

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Over at Reformation21, a couple of articles on street preaching:

Enjoy!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 4 October 2013 at 18:40

Evangelistic preaching

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David Murray has been looking at the issue of evangelistic preaching, in the following sequence:

It is a discussion both helpful and necessary. Head over and join in.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 23 July 2012 at 09:59

Seeing the difference of things

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I went out yesterday again to speak to the people in the village where we have been having evangelistic Bible studies. The first man I spoke to gave me an answer to which I am becoming sadly accustomed: “No . . . no . . . that’s not for me.”

I hear this so often, usually the moment someone knows that I am speaking to them about Jesus Christ. It becomes increasingly distressing the more often I hear it, and calls for prayers like this from Thomas Watson:

Oh, that the eyes of sinners may be speedily opened—that they may see the difference of things, the beauty which is in holiness, and the astonishing madness that is in sin!

HT The Old Guys.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 26 May 2012 at 08:39

The local church and evangelism

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An early incarnation of Erroll Hulse urges us to be true evangelists, embedded in local churches:

There is surely no higher motive than that of the great commission. Our Lord commanded us to teach all nations and assured us that he was with us even to the end of time. If he has commanded evangelism and promised to be with us, then that ought to be enough to spur us on. However, there are many other motives to encourage us, including the promise that the Holy Spirit will convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. The doctrine of Election is also very heartening as we know that the Father has a people which he will give to his Son and that success must crown the right use of means. Compassion is a powerful motive for evangelism. The more we are conformed to Christ the more we will be like him in goodness, compassion and concern toward his enemies (Luke 23:24).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 2 May 2012 at 15:46

A request for prayer

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Today (Saturday 28th April) I will be spending most of the day in a fairly small village outside Crawley, together with about fifteen friends and fellow-labourers. Our intention is to blanket the village with invitations to a community Bible study that we will be holding in the village over eight weeks of May and June. Our desire is to see sinners saved, a church established, and a foothold gained for further gospel effort in the region. Your prayers for God’s blessing on the work (including the holding off of the worst of the weather with which we are currently being buffeted), as you have opportunity, are much appreciated.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 28 April 2012 at 08:03

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Winning battles or people?

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The Pyros give us a little dose of Spurgeon to remind us of the difference between winning battles or arguments and souls:

I have thought it right to come amongst my fellow men, and be a man amongst men, just one of themselves, their equal and their friend; and they have rallied around me, and not refused to love me. And I should not expect to be successful in preaching the gospel, unless I might stand and feel that I am a brother, bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh. If I cannot stand before them thus, I cannot get at their hearts.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 1 December 2011 at 08:43

Posted in Missiology and evangelism

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The truth about Christianity

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What follows is a tract of penetrating honesty written by Archibald Alexander, found in Practical Truths (32-34). The tract is entitled “Christianity in its nature aggressive,” and Alexander is blunt in addressing – way ahead of the game – the foibles and follies of Christianity struggling to get to grips with postmodernity and its dogmas of relativism and pluralism (ironic that so many should so dogmatically assert the absence of dogma and so dogmatically assault those who disagree). You don’t have to agree with the particular emphases of his last paragraph to find it bracing stuff:

In the charter which Christ gave to his disciples, who formed the first church under the new dispensation, the first command is one which requires action. “Go,” says he. Every Christian must be on the alert. He has marching orders from the Captain of his salvation. He cannot sit down in ease and idleness, and yet be a Christian. As the father said to his son in the parable, “Go, work in my vineyard,” so Christ says to every disciple; and it will not answer to say, “I go, sir,” and yet refuse obedience. We must be doers of the word, and not mere hearers. We must be doers of the word, and not mere professors [those making a profession]. The command given by the risen Saviour is still in force, and as it was obligatory on all who heard it at first, so it is binding on all who hear it now. “Go.”

But what are we to do? “Proselyte.” Make disciples. Convert to Christianity. The very word “proselyte” will frighten some people. No heresy in their view is so great as sectarism. But Christianity is so intolerant, that it will bear no other religion; it seeks to overthrow every other system. It if would have admitted the claims of other religions, it would have escaped persecution. But no; it denounced every other system and mode of worship as hateful to God, and destructive to the soul. And it made every disciple a proselyter. And every one now, whether male or female, bond or free, Jew or Greek, who professes Christianity, takes upon himself or herself the obligation to convert others to Christianity.

Consider the extent of the field in which we are called to labor. “Go into all the world.” “God, teach,” make disciples of, “all nations.” And when converted, let the new proselytes not be ashamed to avow their allegiance to the King of Zion, by assuming his badge. Let them be baptized into the name of the Holy Trinity. Now they are in the school of Christ, and must be carefully taught all his commandments.

Here is a great work, requiring the coöperation of all who are already initiated. The greatest charity in the world is the communication of divine truth to the ignorant. Must all preach the word? Yes, in a certain sense, and according to their ability, and in observance of due order. All may teach. All Christians are bound to teach – the parent his children, the master his servants, the schoolmaster his scholars, the citizen his more ignorant neighbours, the colporteur [carrier of books and other literature] the families he visits with books and tracts, the pastor his flock, and the missionary the unconverted Jew and heathen. Here is work enough for all, and all may labor in their appropriate sphere; but all must labor: the duty is incumbent on them, and the obligation cannot be evaded.

The time seems to be coming, predicted by Daniel, when “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” What a change within the last half century! Then there were no Bible societies, no tract societies, no Sunday-schools, no colporteurs, no Protestant missionaries. There is, indeed, another time predicted, when there shall be no need for one to say to his neighbour, “Know the Lord; for all shall know him from the least to the greatest.” Then the work will be completed; but O, how much teaching must there be before the hundreds of millions of souls now ignorant, shall be so instructed as that none shall need further teaching. But perhaps the prophecy does not mean that none shall need farther instruction, but farther admonition – not that all shall have learned enough, but all will be fully disposed to learn. Blessed time! teaching will be then an easy as well as a delightful business.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 27 October 2011 at 16:00

To love your neighbour you must know your neighbour

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 2 April 2011 at 08:08

Broken-hearted evangelists

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I have been listening to the latest Connected Kingdom podcast from “the odd couple,” David Murray and Tim Challies. I was intrigued to hear them discussing the fall-out from Rob Bell’s new book, and asking whether or not the wider church really believes in hell anyway. Surely, they reason, if we really believed in hell we would be doing more to take the gospel to the lost?

Over the last few days I have been putting the finishing touches to the manuscript of what I hope will be my next book, with the working title The Broken-Hearted Evangelist. I finally submitted that manuscript to the publisher yesterday, and – though I have no idea how long it will be before it is available – it is intended, at least in part, to address the issue of a right response to the realities of judgement and salvation.

As a taster, here is the draft preface of the current manuscript. Not sure how much of it will survive the editing process, but hopefully it will give a sense of the nature and scope and direction of the book. I will keep you posted on progress, God willing.

There is nothing that more glorifies God than the accomplishment of His saving purposes in His Son, Jesus Christ. Do you know and believe that? There is nothing more important to a man than the destiny of his immortal soul. Do you know and believe that? There is a heaven to be gained and there is a hell from which to flee, and our relationship to the Lord Jesus is the difference between the two. Do you know and believe that? Only those who repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. Do you know and believe that? The saints of God are sent by God into the world in order to preach that gospel by which sinners are saved. Do you know and believe that?

It is easy to answer such questions with a gutless orthodoxy. Lively faith in Christ grasps spiritual realities in a way that galvanizes the believer. All truth – whether of God’s grace to us or of our duty to God – bears fruit in us only insofar as we are connected to Christ by faith. This being so, says John Owen,

he alone understands divine truth who doeth it: John vii.17. There is not, therefore, any one text of Scripture which presseth our duty unto God, that we can so understand as to perform that duty in an acceptable manner, without an actual regard unto Christ, from whom alone we receive ability for the performance of it, and in or through whom alone it is accepted with God.

John Owen, Christologia in The Works of John Owen (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1965), 1:82.

We cannot pretend that we have understood divine truth unless we are living it. We cannot pretend that we know and believe the truth about men and souls and heaven and hell and salvation unless it is making a difference to the way in which we think and feel and pray and speak and act.

A vigorous and practical concern for the lost, growing out of a desire for God’s glory in man’s salvation, is an eminently Christlike thing and a hallmark of healthy Christianity. By such a standard, there are many unhealthy churches and unhealthy Christians; by such a standard, and to my great grief, I am not well myself.

While I accept that there can be an unbalanced and crippling expectation and even unbiblical obsession with some aspects of evangelism and “mission” (as the portentous modern singular would have it!), there is an opposite and perhaps, in our day, greater danger that believers and churches enjoying possession of a great deposit of truth nevertheless do not know it. If they did, they would be doing something.

It is very easy to be up in arms, for example, about current assaults on what can so calmly be described as the doctrine of hell. “Of course there is a hell!” we protest, offended and disturbed that someone could deny what is so plainly written in the Word of God. Is there a hell? What difference has it made? What have you done differently because there is a hell? Is its reality driving our thoughts, words and deeds? Many of us who have entered the kingdom have come perilously close to the flames of the pit. We have felt its fire, and yet we have, perhaps, forgotten that from which we have been delivered. The urgency with which we fled to Christ ourselves has perhaps been replaced with a casual awareness of spiritual reality that never energizes us to do anything for those who are themselves in danger of eternal punishment.

The same could be said of heaven, of Christ’s atonement for sinners, of God’s grace and mercy, of the freeness of the gospel, of the excellence of salvation. “Yes, yes, yes,” the monotonous ticking off of doctrines received continues. But what difference does it make to you and to me?

It is my heartfelt contention that the truths we believe ought to make the people of God broken-hearted evangelists. My prayer for this book is that the Lord Christ would make its author and its readers truly to understand the gospel duty which God has laid upon His church, and therefore to make us willing to perform the work we have been given to do, and by His strength to make us able to do it, to the praise of the glory of God’s grace.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 11 March 2011 at 12:12

Carey’s commandments

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Ray Ortlund passes along William Carey’s directives for missionary labour. You may be interested to read the longer version, which casts more light on the men who wrote it.

1. Set an infinite value on immortal souls.

2. Gain all the information you can about “the snares and delusions in which these heathens are held.”

3. Abstain from all English manners which might increase prejudice against the gospel.

4. Watch for all opportunities for doing good, even when you are tired and hot.

5. Make Christ crucified the great subject of your preaching.

6. Earn the people’s confidence by your friendship.

7. Build up the souls that are gathered.

8. Turn the work over to “the native brethren” as soon as possible.

9. Work with all your might to translate the Bible into their languages. Build schools to this end.

10. Stay alert in prayer, wrestling with God until he “famish these idols and cause the heathen to experience the blessedness that is in Christ.”

11. Give yourself totally to this glorious cause. Surrender your time, gifts, strength, families, the very clothes you wear.

Listed in Christian History, Issue 36, page 34.

It does not take much to translate these as principles into any time and place. It takes a vast amount of love and humility to translate them as our practice into every time and place.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 12 February 2011 at 21:54

Speaking of Jesus

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I found this little nugget attributed to a man called Rollock:

I had rather a man should stammer and babble about Christ, providing he does it sincerely and from his heart, and has before him as an object the glory of God and salvation of men, than say many things eloquently about Christ, for ostentation and vain glory.

Relief and encouragement for stammerers and babblers everywhere! What will you say to the unconverted tomorrow from the pulpit or along the pew? If all you can do is stammer and babble, let it be concerning Christ, and from a warm heart, with a view to the honour of the Lord and the salvation of the lost.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 27 November 2010 at 11:23

Advancing Christ’s kingdom together #5

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IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

So far in this series on Andrew Fuller’s letter seeking the assistance of his Christian hearers in promoting the interest of Christ we have considered the introduction, in which Fuller establishes the principle of cooperation upon which he will proceed. Following on from that, we have looked at the first three groups of people that pastors address and to which they minister: “serious and humble Christians”, “disorderly walkers”, and those “inquiring after the way of salvation”.

The final category in which Fuller pleads for the assistance of the saints is that of those “living in their sins” and unconcerned about salvation. Again, here he is dealing with the progress of the kingdom in an absolute sense, in the bringing of those who are in darkness into God’s marvellous light.

Alongside the second category of “disorderly walkers” this is the group with which most believers will struggle. It might be considered a relatively easy thing to encourage a healthy child of God; if someone is seeking Christ, then they might at least be inclined to hear a Christian’s efforts to point them to Jesus. However, backslidden Christians and unbelievers careless about their souls are both more likely, at least initially, to resent and resist the believer’s overtures. In both instances, a degree of courage for potential confrontation about sin is required.

Let us hear Fuller on the matter:

Fourthly, There is in all congregations and neighbourhoods a considerable number of people who are living in their sins, and in a state of unconcernedness about salvation. – Our work in respect of them is, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear, to declare unto them their true character, to exhibit the Saviour as the only refuge, and to warn them to flee to him from the wrath to come. In this also there are various ways in which you may greatly assist us. If, as heads of families, you were to inquire of your children and servants what they have heard and noticed on the Lord’s day, you would often find occasion to second the impressions made by our labours. It is also of great consequence to be endued with that wisdom from above which dictates a word in season to men in our ordinary concerns with them. Far be it from us to recommend the fulsome practice of some professors, who are so full of what they call religion as to introduce it on all occasions, and that in a most offensive manner. Yet there is a way of dropping a hint to a good purpose. It is admirable to observe the easy and inoffensive manner in which a patriarch introduced some of the most important truths to a heathen prince, merely in answer to the question, How old are thou? “The days of the years of my pilgrimage,” said he, “are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimage.” This was insinuating to Pharaoh that he and his fathers before him were strangers and pilgrims upon the earth – that their portion was not in this world but in another – that the life of man, though it extended to a hundred and thirty years, was but a few days – and that those few days were mixed with evil – all which, if the king reflected on it, would teach him to set light by the earthly glory with which he was loaded, and to seek a crown which fadeth not away.

You are acquainted with many who do not attend the preaching of the word. If, by inviting them to go with you, an individual only should be caught, as we say, in the gospel net, you would save a soul from death. Such examples have frequently occurred. It is an established law in the Divine administration, that men, both in good and evil, should in a very great way draw and be drawn by each other. The ordinary way in which the knowledge of God is spread in the world is, by every man saying to his neighbour and to his brother, Know the Lord. It is a character of gospel times, that “Many people shall go and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Add to this, by visiting your neighbours under affliction you would be furnished with many an opportunity of conversing with them to advantage. Men’s consciences are commonly awake at such seasons, whatever they have been at others. It is as the month to the wild ass, in which they that seek her may find her.

Finally, Enable us to use strong language when recommending the gospel by its holy and happy effects. – Unbelievers constantly object to the doctrine of grace as licentious; and if they can refer to your unworthy conduct, they will be confirmed, and we shall find it impossible to vindicate the truth of God without disowning such conduct, and it may be you on account of it: but if we can appeal to the upright, the temperate, the peaceable, the benevolent, the holy lives of those among whom we labour, it will be of more weight than a volume of reasonings, and have a greater influence on the consciences of men. A congregation composed of kind and generous masters, diligent and faithful servants, affectionate husbands, obedient wives, tender parents, dutiful children, and loyal subjects, will be to a minister what children of the youth are said to be to a parent: As arrows in the hand of a mighty man: – “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed , but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

These, brethren, are some of the principal ways in which we affectionately solicit your assistance in promoting the interest of Christ. In doing this, we virtually pledge ourselves to be ready on all occasions to engage in it. We feel the weight of this implication. Let each have the other’s prayer, that we may both be assisted from above, without which all the assistance we can render each other will be unavailing. Should this address fall into the hands of one who is yet in his sins, let him consider that the object of it is his salvation; let him reflect on the case of a man whom many are endeavouring to save, but he himself, with hardened unconcern, is pressing forward to destruction; and finally, should he bethink himself, and desire to escape the wrath to come, let him beware of false refuges, and flee to Jesus the hope set before him in the gospel.

  • We need to pray for wisdom and courage to serve Christ in this endeavour. Pray for those whose primary responsibility it is to preach the truth to men, and pray for yourselves, that you might be willing and able to play your part, whatever the opposition.
  • We must be ready to follow up with those under our care or influence the public ministry of God’s word. We may not have many servants in the UK these days – but then, I don’t know where you are reading this, so perhaps you do – but there may be children and others for whom you have some responsibility or obtain some influence, and pressing home the truths that have been proclaimed from the pulpit may drive something into the soul that would otherwise have remained on the surface.
  • Do not be obnoxious, supercilious, or overbearing in the name of piety, but rather seek the wisdom that speaks a word in season to those without Christ. At the same time, do not use the ploy that you are waiting for the right season to cover your cowardice.
  • Find ways to bring the gospel to those who do not normally hear the Word of God, or to bring them under the sound of the word. This may be by taking opportunities to invite them to hear the Scriptures preached, or by taking the gospel to them when you have opportunities. Do not neglect times of distress, hardship and affliction: these may be very appropriate occasions to speak of Jesus, especially if your good neighbourliness as a matter of course has made a way into their affections and assured them of your good intentions.
  • Live in such a way as to complement to the gospel preached from the pulpit, so as to make your life a second sermon. If your own life adorns the gospel, and demonstrates and endorses the truth preached, then you make yourself every true preacher’s ally. If your life is a contradiction of the truth you or your pastors proclaim, if you have the name of a saint but fall short in the life, then you not only offend Christ but you put an obstacle in the path of every man who can discern the gap between Christian testimony and your practice.

    So, are you in?

    Remember Fuller’s opening description of the early church:

    The primitive churches were not mere assemblies of men who agreed to meet together once or twice a week, and to subscribe for the support of an accomplished men who should on those occasions deliver lectures on religion. They were men gathered out of the world by the preaching of the cross, and formed into society for the promotion of Christ’s kingdom in their own souls and in the world around them. It was not the concern of the ministers or elders only; the body of the people were interested in all that was done, and, according to their several abilities and stations, took part in it. Neither were they assemblies of heady, high-minded, contentious people, meeting together to argue on points of doctrine or discipline, and converting the worship of God into scenes of strife. They spoke the truth; but it was in love; they observed discipline; but, like an army of chosen men, it was that they might attack the kingdom of Satan to greater advantage. Happy were it for our churches if we could come to a closer imitation of this model!

    As much as ever, the church needs her people to speak the truth in love, and observe that holy discipline that will enable her to march as an army with banners, and overcome the world, the flesh and the devil, and be the means in God’s hands of plucking brands from the burning and building up the church of Christ.

    To this end, the whole church must be engaged. If your pastors “virtually pledge ourselves to be ready on all occasions to engage in” this work of promoting the cause of Christ, will you pledge yourself to stand with them, pray for them, labour alongside them, pouring yourself out as opportunity and calling provide for the glory of Christ on the earth, seen in the salvation of the lost and the strengthening of the family of God?

    IntroductionFirst groupSecond groupThird groupFourth group

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Thursday 25 November 2010 at 21:05

    Advancing Christ’s kingdom together #2

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    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    Co-operation in action

    We began this series yesterday with Fuller’s introduction to his letter entreating the assistance of his Christian hearers in promoting the interest of Christ in the world. There, he briefly established the principles of co-operation upon which he intended to proceed, namely, the united and active interest of every member of Christ’s body in the health and growth of that body.

    In the letter, he deals with the opportunities for such contributions in terms of four groups of people with whom pastors have to do, and in the service of whom the saints might make a vital contribution. The first group is “serious and humble Christians,” and here are Fuller’s suggestions and requests:

    First, It may be supposed that in every church of Christ there will be a considerable portion of serious and humble Christians. – Our work in respect of them is to feed them with the wholesome doctrine of the word, and to teach them the mind of Christ in all things. The assistance which we ask of you, brethren, in this part of our ministry, is, that you would not only pray for us, but be free to impart to us the state of your minds, and whether our labours be edifying to you or not. It is not so much by a systematical statement and defence of Christian doctrines that believers are edified, as by those doctrines being applied to their respective cases. This is the way in which they are ordinarily introduced in the Scriptures, and in which they become “words in due season.” But we cannot well preach to the cases of people unless we know them. Add to this, the interest which you discover in the things of God has a more than ordinary influence on our minds in the delivery of them. You cannot conceive the difference between addressing a people full of tender and affectionate attention, whose souls appear in their eyes, and answer, as it were, to the word of God; and preaching to those who are either half asleep, or their thoughts manifestly occupied by other things. By looking at the one, our hearts have expanded like the flowers before the morning sun: thoughts have occurred, and sensations have been kindled, which the labours of the study could never have furnished. But, by observing the other, our spirits are contracted like the flowers by the damps of the evening, and thoughts which were interesting when alone have seemed to die as they proceeded from our lips.

    It will tend not a little to increase your interest in hearing, if you exercise yourselves on other occasions in reading and reflection. If you attend to the things of God only, or chiefly, while hearing us, we shall preach to you under great disadvantage. The apostle complained of many things being hard to be uttered, owing to the Hebrews being dull of hearing; and that, when for the time they ought to have been teachers, they had need that one should teach them again which were the first principles of the oracles of God. Thinking hearers gave a facility to preaching, even upon the most difficult subjects; while those whose minds are seldom occupied at other times can scarcely understand the most easy and familiar truths.

    Here, then, are ways in which healthy saints can make a vital contribution to the work of ministry:

    • Firstly, and most fundamentally, you can pray for your pastors. It was Spurgeon who spoke for countless men (albeit on a different scale) when he said that the secret of all his pastoral ‘success’ was that his people prayed for him. Prayer opens the windows of heaven to bring down a blessing. If you can do nothing else, you can pray for your pastors, and plead a blessing on their labours.
    • Secondly, you can labour to know and be known by those who serve you, with a ready transparency and in intelligent communication. It is this ready and easy relationship that enables the under-shepherd to minister to his particular flock, and to the particular sheep in it. To this end, will you open your hearts to your pastors about your joys and troubles, your hopes and fears, your delights and concerns, so that they might minister to you wisely? Further, will you intelligently communicate to them whether or not they are feeding your souls and scratching your spiritual itches in and out of the pulpit, if not on the Lord’s day then with a phone call, quiet word, grateful note or encouraging email during the week? How many never respond with any outward sign of intelligent appreciation! How many more never get beyond “Good word, pastor!” at the door on the way out, or platitudes about being “so blessed”? Knowing how and in what ways we have profitably served, or if we are failing to bring forth from our treasure things new and old for the good of the saints, helps preachers to be wise physicians of your souls.
    • Thirdly, you can be exemplary listeners. To be sure, there are bad days when the kids were up all night and you struggle to keep your eyes open, or when that headache means you can only look at the preacher with a squint, or when you are persuaded that you did indeed leave the oven on at full heat. But, generally speaking, do you draw the truth out of your preachers, contributing to a lively spiritual dynamic in which, by means of mutual sensitivity, the flow of truth – under divine pressure and hissing-hot – comes flooding out of his soul into yours? Your appearance and spiritual disposition under the preaching of the word will contribute either to the flowering or the withering of your pastors in the act of preaching. (See also here.)
    • Fourthly and finally, you can maintain spiritual fitness for hearing by your own reading and reflection apart from the services of worship. Such activity forms the channels down which the truth must run, and dredges out the silt that too readily builds up to inhibit that flow of truth. Especially on Saturday evenings, stoke up a good fire in your souls, so that on the Lord’s day morning you need only to rake over the coals to see the flames leap up once more. Holy familiarity with God’s truth in the general run of life will equip you to understand and receive it when it is offered to you morning and evening on the Lord’s day.

    And, brothers and sisters, the best time to begin is now, and the best Lord’s day to put this into practice is the coming one, and the one after that, and so on and so on, until glory dawns, and faith is sight.

    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Saturday 20 November 2010 at 14:00

    Advancing Christ’s kingdom together #1

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    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    In 1806, the Baptist pastor and theologian Andrew Fuller drew up a letter to be circulated among the churches with which his congregation was associated. This particular letter was entitled, “The pastor’s address to his Christian hearers, entreating their assistance in promoting the interest of Christ.” Like other letters of the same sort, it was intended to be read and received among the churches as a means of stirring up the saints to lively faith and a faithful life.

    As the title of this particular letter indicates, Fuller’s concern is to engage the hearts, minds, hands and mouths of God’s people in the cause of Christ’s kingdom, urging them to use all proper and legitimate means to add their strength to that of gospel ministers in seeking the glory of Christ in the salvation of the lost and the building up of his church. It is a cogent piece of pastoral reasoning, profitable as much now as it was then.

    While the author acknowledges that he might have gone in any number of directions with such entreaties and exhortations, he settles on the plan of identifying four groups of people with whom pastors deal – serious and humble Christians; those who are walking in a disorderly way; people concerned about salvation; and those who are manifestly unconverted – and shows how God’s people can assist pastors in bringing the Word of God fruitfully to bear upon them, and pleading with the saints to do all they can to this end.

    I intend to post Fuller’s letter in several parts over the coming days (with links to help navigation), and hope that it will prove a spur to each one of us to embrace our privilege and responsibility in this matter. We begin with Fuller’s introduction, in which he sets out the grounds of seeking such assistance from the church at large.

    The pastor’s address to his Christian hearers, entreating their assistance in promoting the interest of Christ

    Beloved brethren,

    The ministry to which God by your election has called us forms a distinguished part of the gospel dispensation. Divine instruction was communicated under the Old Testament, and an order of men appointed of God for the purpose; but their work can scarcely be denominated preaching. They foretold the good news; but it is for us to proclaim it. The poor having the gospel preached to them is alleged in proof that the Messiah was come, and that they were not to look for another.

    The very existence of Christian churches is in subserviency to the preaching of the gospel; or they would not have been described as “golden candlesticks,” the use of which is to impart light to those around them. We speak not thus, brethren, to magnify ourselves. There is an important difference between Christian ministers and the Christian ministry. The former, we are ready to acknowledge, exist for your sakes. “Whether Paul, Apollos, or Cephas – all are yours;” but the latter, as being the chosen means of extending the Redeemer’s kingdom, is that for which both we and you exist. “Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

    These considerations will enable us to account for the joy which the apostle expressed in “Christ’s being preached,” even though it were from “envy;” and may teach us to rejoice in the same thing, though it be in the most corrupt communities, or even from the most suspicious motives. But though God may cause his truth to triumph wherever and by whomsoever it is taught, yet it should be our concern to publish it willingly, and to the best advantage.

    The primitive churches were not mere assemblies of men who agreed to meet together once or twice a week, and to subscribe for the support of an accomplished men who should on those occasions deliver lectures on religion. They were men gathered out of the world by the preaching of the cross, and formed into society for the promotion of Christ’s kingdom in their own souls and in the world around them. It was not the concern of the ministers or elders only; the body of the people were interested in all that was done, and, according to their several abilities and stations, took part in it. Neither were they assemblies of heady, high-minded, contentious people, meeting together to argue on points of doctrine or discipline, and converting the worship of God into scenes of strife. They spoke the truth; but it was in love; they observed discipline; but, like an army of chosen men, it was that they might attack the kingdom of Satan to greater advantage. Happy were it for our churches if we could come to a closer imitation of this model!

    We trust it is our sincere desire as ministers to be more intent upon our work; but allow us to ask for your assistance. Nehemiah, zealous as he was, could not have built the wall if the people had not had a mind to work. Nor could Ezra have reformed the abuses among the people if nobody had stood with him. But in this case the elders, when convinced of the necessity of the measure, offered themselves willingly to assist him. “Arise,” said they, “for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.” Such is the assistance, brethren, which we solicit at your hands.

    We might enumerate the different ways in which your assistance in promoting the interest of Christ is needed. We might ask for your prayers, your early attendance, your counsels, your contributions, and your example; but what we have to offer will arise from a review of the different branches of our own labours.

    In the discharge of our work we have to do with four descriptions of people, and in dealing with each we stand in need of your assistance: namely, serious and humble Christians – disorderly walkers – persons under concern about salvation – and persons manifestly unconverted.

    The key question for the saints is: are you persuaded of the identity and purpose of Christ’s church, and of the part you might play in pursuing the ends for which the church has been called out of the world? Will you say with Fuller that

    [the early churches] were men gathered out of the world by the preaching of the cross, and formed into society for the promotion of Christ’s kingdom in their own souls and in the world around them. It was not the concern of the ministers or elders only; the body of the people were interested in all that was done, and, according to their several abilities and stations, took part in it.

    Furthermore, saying it, will you embrace it? In Fuller’s quaint language, “interest” is not passing concern, but active involvement and determined participation, knowing oneself to be part of the body of Christ.

    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Friday 19 November 2010 at 16:56

    Holy hip hop?

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    David Murray asks some searching questions about the acceptance and promotion of rap and hip hop in some New Calvinist circles. To be fair, he asks some of himself as well:

    Am I just expressing a cultural preference? Am I just being a traditionalist or a legalist? Am I making my sometimes-faulty conscience a rule for others? Am I threatening the precious gift of Christian liberty? I have to answer such challenging questions honestly and prayerfully when I write something like this. And I continue to examine my motives and aims.

    Even so, he is ready to press on and ask some good questions of others also:

    But may I not also challenge highly esteemed brothers in the Lord to ask themselves a few questions: Is your Christ-like longing for the salvation of lost souls in our inner cities, and maybe your personal friendships with some Christian rappers, hindering you from taking a sharp biblical lens to Hip-Hop and a consistent biblical approach to the worship of God? Have you perhaps at times mistaken the incredibly powerful effects of music and rhythm upon the human spirit for the powerful effects of the Holy Spirit? Is “Holy Hip Hop” leading Christians and non-Christians away from unholy Hip Hop and its culture or keeping them in it, and maybe even leading outsiders into it? Is there ever a line to be drawn where we say: this culture is so corrupted that separation rather than transformation may be the right Christian response? Are you at risk of unintentionally undermining the biblical, reformed, and God-glorifying dependence on plain preaching to save all souls, whatever the color of their skin? If the message really is more important and powerful than the music, would removing the music and leaving the bare words excite the same interest and produce the same effect? Why is it mainly white churches that are providing a platform for this, and why are so many African American churches so reluctant to welcome a genre of music that has done so much to destroy their communities and devastate young lives?

    Doubtless this one is going to cause a little friction, but – as David says -

    If the unqualified promotion of “Holy Hip Hop” had not become so public and prevalent over recent days and weeks, I would probably have tried to conduct a more private discussion about my concerns. Maybe the promoters of “Holy Hip Hop” might have been wiser to consult more widely and seriously dialogue with other Christians outside their circles before going so increasingly public with their fairly unquestioning support of what they must know will divide the reformed movement. Although I now feel conscience-bound to put this into the public domain, I do continue to welcome dialogue, both public and private.

    I’m hopeful that the New Calvinist movement is now old and mature enough to seriously and prayerfully consider some concerns from other Christians outside their inner circles, from those who love them, appreciate them, and sincerely desire their long-term spiritual prosperity.

    We watch with interest both the responses to David’s thoughtful, irenic and earnest piece, and the spirit in which the discussion will be conducted.

    [For more on the new Calvinism, intended in the same spirit, try here.]

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Thursday 11 November 2010 at 18:28

    A closing plea

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    How would you close a sermon? How would you bring to an end a sermon in which you were pleading for sinners to receive God’s great pardon for sin? Here is an example from Spurgeon, preaching from Psalm 25.11 (“Pardon my iniquity, O Lord, for it is great”), in a sermon entitled “Great Pardon for Great Sin” (#2988, MTP 52):

    I have tried, and I am trying, to preach a wide gospel. I do not like to have a net with such big meshes that the fish get through. I think I may catch you all if the Lord wills. If the vilest are not shut out, then you are not shut out, friends. And if you believe in Christ with all your heart, you shall be saved! But oh, what if you should say, “I care not for forgiveness. I do not want pardon, I will not seek it! I will not have it – I love my sins – I love myself”? O sinner, then, by that deathbed of yours where you shall see your dreadful sins in another light, by that resurrection of yours where you shall see eternity to be no trifle, by that doom of yours, by the last dread thunders, by the awful sentence, “Depart, you cursed,” of the Judge, I beseech you, do me but this one favour! Acknowledge that you had an invitation tonight and that it was affectionately pressed upon you. I have told you, in God’s name, that your sin is not a trifle with God – that it is not a matter to be laughed at or to be whistled over. I have told you that the greatness of your sin need not shut you out. What is needed is that the Spirit of God should teach you these things in your heart. But do remember, if your ears refuse these truths of God, and if you reject them, we are a sweet savour unto Christ as well in them that perish as in them that are saved! But woe unto you – woe unto you, who, with the Gospel ringing in your ears, go down to Hell! “Verily, verily, I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment, than for you!” May God save you, for Jesus’ sake! Amen!

    Whatever the relationship that sustains our pleading, can we not learn from this?

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Wednesday 3 November 2010 at 23:05

    Easy to sing, harder to live

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    John Cennick, a faithful preacher and bold evangelist, wrote a hymn, the last verse of which is powerful:

    Now will I tell to sinners round
    What a dear Saviour I have found!
    I’ll point to Thy redeeming blood,
    And say, ‘Behold the way to God!’

    They are indeed stirring words, and it is easy to sing them fervently and earnestly within the safe confines of the walls of a home or church building.  But when Cennick wrote them he meant them, and he lived them.  Having obtained salvation and the assurance of it, he was bold and quick to point others to the same Saviour who had delivered him.  May we know the same joy of salvation, and the same boldness to make known our Saviour.

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Friday 20 August 2010 at 17:34

    Evangelistic preaching

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    David Murray provides the full text of a series of blog posts on evangelistic preaching.  There are many helpful principles and much sound reasoning here.  It is worth reading, especially for preachers.

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Tuesday 4 May 2010 at 20:00

    Christopher Wright: false dichotomies in mission

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    An interesting couple of posts (highlighted by Timmy Brister) in which Christopher Wright (author of The Mission of God and The God I Don’t Understand) sets out five false dichotomies in mission:

    1. Opposing the individual and the cosmic and corporate impact of the gospel, and prioritizing the first.
    2. Opposing believing and living the gospel, and prioritizing the first.
    3. Opposing evangelism and discipleship, and prioritizing the first.
    4. Opposing word and deed, or proclamation and demonstration, and prioritizing the first.
    5. Opposing evangelism and ecclesiology, and prioritizing the first.

    Read both parts in full.

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Saturday 11 July 2009 at 11:28

    Gospel intentionality

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    charles-haddon-spurgeon-12-preachingThe Shepherd’s Fellowship quote Spurgeon to remind us that even when we are building our relationships with friends and neighbours, we must remember for what and for whom we are working.  Spurgeon delivered these words in a sermon in 1884.  I feel precisely the same temptations today, as a Christian and as an evangelist: it is always at the point of speaking about Jesus that my gospel intentionality fizzles out.  Spurgeon calls me back to where I ought to be.

    You [as preachers] have nothing else to employ as the means of good, except the salvation of Jesus, and there is nothing else worth telling.

    I heard of a congregation the other day that was so very small that hardly any one came to listen to the preacher. Instead of blaming himself, and preaching better, the minister said he thought he was not doing much good by sermons and prayer-meetings, and therefore he would found a club, and if the fellows came in, and played draughts, that might do them good. What a lot of that sort of thing is now being tried! We are going to convert souls on a new system,—are we? Are we also to have a substitute for bread?—and healthier drink than pure water?  . . .

    [T]o hope ever to bring sinners to holiness and heaven by any teaching but that which begins and ends in Jesus Christ is a sheer delusion. None other name is given among men whereby they can be saved. If you have to deal with highly learned and educated people, nothing is so good for them as preaching Jesus Christ; and if the people be ignorant and degraded, nothing is better for them than the preaching of Jesus.

    A young man said to another the other day, “I am going down to preach at So-and-so, what sort of people are they there? What kind of doctrine will suit them?” Having heard of the question, I gave this advice,—”You preach Jesus Christ, and that will suit them, I am sure, if they are learned people it will suit them; if they are ignorant it will suit them—God blessing it.”

    When the great Biblical critic, Bengel, was dying, he sent for a young theological student, to whom he said, “I am low in spirit; say something good to cheer me.” “My dear Sir,” said the student, “I am so insignificant a person, what can I say to a great man like yourself?” “But if you are a student of theology,” said Bengel, “you ought to have a good word to say to a dying man; pray say it without fear.” “Well, Sir,” said he, “What can I say to you, but that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin?” Bengel said, “Give me your hand, young man; that is the very word I wanted.”

    A simple gospel text is the word which every man needs who is in fear of divine wrath, and he may be sitting next to you at this moment, or he is in the same house of business with you, and needs that you should tell him about Christ. Do that, and bless his soul. May you all understand the Scriptures in this way, and may God make you a great blessing to those around you.

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Monday 22 June 2009 at 20:41

    Simplified missional living

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    Jonathan Dodson dispenses some useful advice on bringing the gospel to your community, although you might want to fine-tune some of it (e.g. you might not want to flee the Christian sub-culture entirely, although you might choose not to be trapped within it).

    Eat with Non-Christians

    We all eat three meals a day. Why not make a habit of sharing one of those meals with a non-Christian or with a family of non-Christians? Go to lunch with a co-worker, not by yourself. Invite the neighbors over for family dinner. If it’s too much work to cook a big dinner, just order pizza and put the focus on conversation. When you go out for a meal, invite a non-Christian friend. Or take your family to family-style restaurants where you can sit at the table with strangers and strike up conversations. Have cookouts and invite Christians and non-Christians. Flee the Christian subculture.

    Walk, Don’t Drive

    If you live in a walkable area, make a practice of getting out and walking around your neighborhood, apartment complex, or campus. Instead of driving to the mailbox or convenience store, walk to get mail or groceries. Be deliberate in your walk. Say hello to people you don’t know. Strike up conversations. Attract attention by walking the dog, carrying along a 6-pack to share, bringing the kids. Make friends. Get out of your house! Last night I spent an hour outside gardening with my family. We had good conversations with about four of our neighbors. Take interest in your neighbors. Ask questions. Engage. Pray as you go. Save some gas, the planet, and some people.

    Be a Regular

    Instead of hopping all over the city for gas, groceries, haircuts, eating out, and coffee, go to the same places at the same times. Get to know the staff. Smile. Ask questions. Be a regular. I have friends at coffee shops all over the city. My friends at Starbucks donate a ton of leftover pastries to our church 2-3 times a week. We use them for church gatherings and occasionally give them to the homeless. Build relationships. Be a regular.

    Hobby with Non-Christians

    Pick a hobby that you can share. Get out and do something you enjoy with others. Try city league sports or local rowing and cycling teams. Share your hobby by teaching lessons, such as sewing, piano, knitting, or tennis lessons. Be prayerful. Be intentional. Be winsome. Have fun. Be yourself.

    Talk to Your Co-workers

    How hard is that? Take your breaks with intentionality. Go out with your team or task force after work. Show interest in your co-workers. Pick four and pray for them. Form moms’ groups in your neighborhood and don’t make them exclusively non-Christian. Schedule play dates with the neighbors’ kids. Work on mission.

    Volunteer with Non-Profits

    Find a non-profit in your part of the city and take a Saturday a month to serve your city. Bring your neighbors, your friends, or your small group. Spend time with your church serving your city. Once a month. You can do it!

    Participate in City Events

    Instead of playing XBox, watching TV, or surfing the net, participate in city events. Go to fundraisers, festivals, cleanups, summer shows, and concerts. Participate missionally. Strike up conversation. Study the culture. Reflect on what you see and hear. Pray for the city. Love the city. Participate with the city.

    Serve Your Neighbors

    Help a neighbor by weeding, mowing, building a cabinet, or fixing a car. Stop by the neighborhood association or apartment office and ask if there is anything you can do to help improve things. Ask your local Police and Fire Stations if there is anything you can do to help them. Get creative. Just serve!

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Tuesday 5 May 2009 at 21:56

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