Free eBook from The Gospel Project and Ligonier Ministries

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Sign up to download the eBook here. 

In 2014, LifeWay Research and Ligonier Ministries partnered to learn what Americans really believe in seven key doctrinal areas—and the resulting study paints a sobering picture about the state of American theology.

The Gospel Project just released a new, free eBook, The State of American Theology: Knowing the Truth, Loving the Church, Reaching Our Neighbors, collecting the research and thoughtful essays from renowned theologians.

This was the last project I led at LifeWay before entering the pastorate. I am thankful to see it available online. The eBook features essays and articles such as:

  • Why Theological Study Is For Everyone by Jared Wilson
  • The Love of God by D. A. Carson

  • Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by JD Greear
  • The Marks of the Church by Mark Dever
  • All Nations and Church Planting by Ed Stetzer
  • The Pillar of the Truth by Steve Timmis
  • Not So Fast by Trevin Wax
  • Soli Deo Gloria by John Piper
  • Bible Believing. Bible Obeying by Burk Parsons
  • What Should We Say? by Jonathan Akin

  • Dealing with Doubt by Randy Alcorn

  • Lust and Chastity by Thabiti Anyabwile
  • Ordinary Christian Work by Tim Challies
  • Christian Parenting by Elyse Fitzpatrick
  • Pain: God’s Megaphone by Alistair Begg
  • A Teachable Spirit by Justin Taylor

  • The Blessings of Humility by Jerry Bridges
  • Sabbath Rest by Sinclair Ferguson
  • The Holy Love of God by R.C. Sproul
  • The Breath of God by Derek Thomas

  • Bearers of God’s Image by Trillia Newbell

  • The Biblical Evidence for Hell by Christopher Morgan
  • The New Heavens and New Earth by Dennis Johnson
  • What Is The Gospel? by Ray Ortlund
  • Preach the Gospel, and Since It’s Necessary, Use Words by Ed Stetzer
  • Only One Way by Bruce Ware

  • And many more…

Sign up to download the book here!

Acting Our Way Into Feelings In Worship

a-long-obedience-in-the-same-directionI recently picked up Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction at a used book store (I love the title). I have always found Peterson’s writing soul stirring. In this book Peterson offers an honest and reflective journey through the Psalms of Ascent (120-134). Consider this thought on worship based on Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (ESV)

But very often we don’t feel like [worshiping], and so we say, “It would be dishonest for me to go to a place of worship and praise God when I don’t feel like it. I would be a hypocrite.” The Psalm says, I don’t care whether you feel like it or not: as was decreed, “give thanks to the name of God.”

I have put great emphasis on the fact that Christians worship because they want to, not because they are forced to. But I have never said that we worship because we feel like it. Feelings are great liars. If Christians worshiped only when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship. Feelings are important in many areas but completely unreliable in matters of faith. Paul Scherer is laconic: “The Bible wastes very little time on the way we feel.”

We live in what one writer has called “the age of sensation.” We think that if we don’t feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting. Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship. When we obey the command to praise God in worship, our deep, essential need to be in relationship with God is nurtured.

3 Deadly Turns From The Gospel

CCEGalatiansThis post is excerpted and adapted from the Christ-centered Exposition Commentary on Galatians (1:6-7). You can get the whole set in WordSearch right now for $69.95. Here are three important truths accompany a person’s tragic turn from the gospel, by Tony Merida.

When you turn from the gospel, you turn from God Himself

Paul says that the Galatians are turning away from “Him,” not merely from a set of principles. When you turn from the gospel, you are turning from the God of all grace. You are turning from the Christ “who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age”. Paul says he is amazed that the Galatians are turning from their Redeemer, the fountain of all grace. When you turn from the gospel, you turn from God Himself. Disbelieving the gospel is no small error. If you miss Christ, you will lose everything.

When you turn from the gospel, you turn from the grace of Christ

“The grace of Christ” is a synonym for the gospel (cf. 5:4). Remember, the Judaizers believed salvation was Jesus + circumcision and the requirements of the OT law. But salvation is not Jesus + anything. Why? Because salvation is by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. Notice how the words “called” and “grace” are together in Galatians 1:6 and in verse 15. The Galatians were called by grace, and they were called into the realm of grace. This type of call denotes God’s sovereign action and believers’ experience. When God calls you to Christ, you sense His power. You sense God dealing with you. Just as He called Abraham, Moses, and Paul, He calls sinners to Himself today. He calls us not because of any good in us but because of His grace.

When you turn from the gospel, you have nowhere else to go

Paul tells the Galatians that they are “turning to a different gospel,” but adds, “not that there is another gospel”. In other words, Paul says the false teachers’ message is no gospel at all. There is only one gospel. In all likelihood the false teachers were saying that their gospel was not different from what Paul taught. But Paul says, “Yes, it is.” There is nothing else like the gospel of Christ. Unfortunately, false teachers have been using the same “Oh, we believe in Jesus, too” line for centuries. But when you go deeper into the teachings of any cult, you realize that it presents a [another] gospel (cf. 2 Cor 11:3-4).

The point is that there is no other way to be right with God, to experience forgiveness of sin, apart from the gospel of Christ Jesus (see John 14:6-7). It is difficult for people to embrace the exclusiveness of the gospel when they swim in a sea of religious pluralism and philosophical relativism. We often hear, “All religions are equally valid, and there is no one truth.” But finding right relationship with God is not like selecting a deodorant. You may choose any of a number of antiperspirants to keep you fresh, but that is not the case when it comes to securing eternal life. Only one path to God will do: Jesus. He has no equal. He is not one among many religious leaders. He is the one and only Messiah.

The Seven Deadly Sins

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The Winter 2015 adult and student editions of The Gospel Project examined the truth of human sin and the beauty of God’s salvation. In conjunction with the studies, we launched a blog series on the Seven Daily Sins. Here is a list of the blog posts from the completed series.

Desiring God also released a free eBook titled Killjoys: The Seven Deadly Sins, you can download it here.

full_killjoysOur hearts were designed to enjoy a full and forever happiness, not the pitiful temporary pleasures for which we’re too prone to settle. Pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust are woefully inadequate substitutes for the wonder, beauty, and affection of God. They will rob you, not ravish you. They will numb you, not heal you. They will slaughter you, not save you.

Killjoys was written to lead you deeper in love with our God and further into war against your sin. The truths, warnings, and promises in these pages are meant to chart a life-giving path to greater holiness and greater joy.

Gospel Formed by Jeff Medders

Gospel FormedThis review first appeared on The Gospel Coalition.

This is the golden age of publishing books that are gospel-centered. And rightly so. Very few Christians would doubt that the gospel should be central to the spiritual formation of individuals and at the center of the church as a kingdom community. There is no arena of life outside the purview of the gospel; there is no area of life the gospel does not speak to. Therefore, Christians should make it their habit to reflect on the good news of the gospel deeply and often.

C. S. Lewis once pointed out that the danger for many Christians is that long exposure to the miraculous truths of God’s Word can eventually become commonplace. The gospel is “the old, old story,” but it should never feel like “the same ol’ story.” The good news that saves you is also the good news that sustains you throughout your Christian journey. As J. A. Medders writes in the opening pages of his new book Gospel Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life, “We grow by the gospel, we grow in the gospel, and we grow with the gospel.”

For this reason we should welcome voices that help us re-angle the light of the multifaceted gospel to shine on our hearts in a fresh way. Jesus’s declaration that “it is finished” should echo off every corner of our lives in perpetuity. Medders, lead pastor of Redeemer Church in Tomball, Texas, is a trustworthy guide in helping us meditate long and hard on what it means to, as his subtitle states, live a grace-addicted, truth-filled, Jesus-exalting life.

The best way to approach this book is to take your time. This is how it’s intended to be read. While you could speed through it quickly, it’s best to let each chapter stand alone as part of the journey.

In the introduction Medders shares his personal correspondence with some of the most respected living scholars, pastors, and writers on the question “what is gospel-centeredness?” Reading Jerry Bridges, Matt Chandler, Sam Storms, Doug Wilson, Russell Moore, and others explain their understanding of gospel-centeredness is a nice addition to this book. From there, Medders lays the groundwork for the gospel-centered mediations that follow. “The gospel, Jesus’s death and resurrection for our sins, is our starting block and our anchor and our wings,” Medders makes clear. “The gospel is our center, our core, our fuel. It’s our framework for understanding reality.” The bulk of Gospel Formedis centered on four questions:

  • What is gospel worship? Gospel worship is glorifying God in all of life in light of, in acceptance with, motivated by, and empowered by the gospel of grace. Gospel worship is living in response to the gospel in spirit and in truth.
  • What is gospel identity? Gospel identity is discovering the Christian’s meaning, purpose, acceptance with God, and position in the universe based on our union with Christ. Gospel identity is first, foremost, and always that we are “in Christ”.
  • What is gospel community? Gospel community is a group of Christians encountering and exhorting each other to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Gospel community is the people of God living out the gospel ethics of the kingdom of God.
  • What is gospel mission? Gospel mission is the call and commitment to spread the good news of gospel grace to all kinds of people in all kinds of places. Gospel mission is the spread of the name and fame of Jesus by means of gospel proclamation.

Each chapter in Gospel Formed is framed with a Bible verse or passage, and the meditations throughout each chapter are sprinkled with God’s Word. Simply put, the whole volume is saturated with the Bible. In every chapter Medders helps the reader linger on the perfect life of Christ, the bloodstained cross, the victorious empty tomb, and our beautiful King who reins forevermore. As I slowly worked through Gospel Formed, I often found myself in joyful exultation, proclaiming “Yes, that is good news!”

Medders’s goal is clear: he aims to serve the readers in the worship of God. At its heart, the book is written in a warm devotional tone. His punchy, poignant, and often funny prose is reminiscent of Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, with a fresh enthusiasm that adds to the enjoyment of the reader’s experience. It’s not often that one can find a book that treats the precious doctrines of our ancient faith with language that today’s blue-collar Christian can fully grasp. But Medders accomplishes this well. This is the kind of book you can hand to new Christians who need to understand the heart behind soteriology, ecclesiology, and missiology. And this is the kind of book you can hand to old saints who need to experience the depths of soteriology, ecclesiology, and missiology in a renewed way.

It is a difficult thing to communicate such deep truths without being dry. The simplicity of Gospel Formed is deceptive since you will often find yourself reflecting deeply on the truths of theology long after you put it down. I wholeheartedly welcome this volume into the expanding collection of works that advance the cause of gospel-centeredness in the church today. As Russell Moore remarked, “If the gospel has become something routine to you, not the kind of news that lights up a Galilean sky with angels, read this book with expectation. . . . [Medders’s] enthusiasm can shake you out of routine toward glory.”

The Powerful Story of a Christmas Truce

Perhaps you have heard the story from Stanley Weintraub’s book Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce?

In December of 1914 something amazing happened along the Western front during World War 1. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, parties of German and British soldiers began exchanging Christmas songs across the trenches. Essentially, they were battling each other with season’s greetings, at some points individual soldiers walked across enemy lines bearing Christmas gifts. On Christmas eve and Christmas day both sides agreed to a truce, an unofficial cease fire. These enemy war units ventured into what they called “no mans land”, neutral territory, to share their rations of food and sing Christmas carols together.

What a beautiful picture. Enemy troops coming together under the banner of Christmas. Coming together in peace to celebrate with one another. Just a small taste of what’s to come when Christ returns. As Isaiah 2:4 reads:

“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

In a world of chaos and war, where the effects of sin ripple through our lives and our lands – we all long for peace. And every now and then, we catch a glimpse of what is to come.

50 Quotes from J.I. Packer’s “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God”

PackerIn seminary I first read J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty God as part of my reading in an independent study on evangelism with Dr. John Hammett at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Packer (Ph.D., Oxford) is a British-born Canadian Christian theologian in the low church Anglican and Reformed traditions. Packer is the author of numerous books, and is considered one of the most influential Christian theologians today. Here is an introduction to Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God:

“Divine sovereignty is a vast subject: it embraces everything that comes into the biblical picture of God as Lord and King in His world, the One who ‘worketh all things after the counsel of his own will’ (Eph. i. I I), directing every process and ordering every event for the fulfilling of his own eternal plan.”[1]

“The only aspect of divine sovereignty that will concern us in these pages is God’s sovereignty in grace: His almighty action in bringing helpless sinners home through Christ to Himself.”[2]

“I shall try to show further that, so far from inhibiting evangelism, faith in the sovereignty of God’s government and grace is the only thing that can sustain it, for it is the only thing that can give us the resilience that we need if we are to evangelize boldly and persistently, and not to be daunted by temporary setbacks.”[3]

“The prayer of a Christian is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble acknowledgement of helpless dependence…what we do every time we pray is to confess our own impotence and God’s sovereignty.”[4]

First, “you give God thanks for your conversion…because you know in your heart that God was entirely responsible for it.”[5] Secondly, “You pray for the conversion of others…when you pray for unconverted people, you do so on the assumption that it is in God’s power to bring them to faith.”[6]

“The root cause is the same as in most cases of error in the Church- the intruding of rationalistic speculations, the passion for systematic consistency, a reluctance to recognize the existence of mystery and let God be wiser than men, and a consequent subjecting of Scripture to the supposed demands of human logic. People see that the Bible teaches man’s responsibility for his actions; they do not see (man, indeed, cannot see) how this is consistent with the sovereign Lordship of God over those actions.”[7]

“This is because thinking through it we have to deal with an antinomy in biblical revelation, in such circumstances our finite, fallen minds are more than ordinarily apt to go astray.”[8]

“It is an apparent incompatibility between two truths. An antinomy exists when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both undeniable…You see that each must be true on its own, but you do not see how they can both be true together.”[9]

“An antinomy is neither dispensable nor comprehensible…an observed relation between two statements of fact…Accept it for what it is, and learn to live with it….think of the two principles as complementary to each other…Use each within the limits of its own sphere of reference.”[10]

“Hearers of the gospel are responsible for their reaction; if they reject the good news, they are guilty of unbelief.”[11]

“Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent.”[12]

“The temptation is to undercut and maim the one truth by the way in which we stress the other: to assert man’s responsibility in a way that excludes God from being sovereign, or to affirm God’s sovereignty in a way that destroys the responsibility of man.”[13]

First, “there is the temptation to an exclusive concern with human responsibility.”[14] Secondly, “there is an opposite temptation that threatens us also: namely, the temptation to an exclusive concern with divine sovereignty.”[17]

“Our evangelistic work is the instrument He uses for this purpose….it is God’s prerogative to give results when the Gospel is preached.”[15]

“Only by letting our knowledge of God’s sovereignty control the way in which we plan, and pray, and work in His service, can we avoid becoming guilty of this fault.”[16]

“God’s way of saving men is to send out His servants to tell them the gospel, and the Church has been charged to go into all the world for that very purpose.”[18]

“To evangelize, is to present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church.”[19]

“…evangelism is the issuing of a call to turn, as well as to trust; it is the delivering, not merely of a divine invitation to receive a Saviour, but of a divine command to repent of sin.”[20]

“Evangelism is man’s work, but the giving of the faith is God’s.”[21]

“it is by teaching that the gospel preacher fulfills his ministry. To teach the gospel is his first responsibility: to reduce it to its simplest essentials, to analyze it point by point, to fix its meaning by positive and negative definition, to show how each part of the message links up with the rest- and go on explaining it till he is quite sure that his listeners have grasped it.”[22]

“Evangelizing includes the endeavor to elicit a response to the truth taught.”[23]

“Evangelism it to be defined, not institutionally, in terms of the kind of meeting held, but theologically, in terms of what is taught, and for what purpose.”[24]

“In a word, the evangelistic message is the gospel of Christ, and Him crucified, the message of man’s sin and God’s grace, of human guilt and divine forgiveness, of new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”[25]

The Gospel is a message about Christ, and a message about sin.

  • Conviction of sin is essentially an awareness of a wrong relationship with God
  • Conviction of sin always includes conviction of sins
  • Conviction of sin always includes conviction of sinfulness.

A message about Christ.

  • We must not present the Person of Christ apart from His saving work.
  • We must not present the saving work of Christ apart from His person.

“The question about the extent of the atonement…has no bearing on the content of the evangelistic message…”[26] (Good discussion points)

On the summons to faith and repentance. “Faith is essentially the casting and resting of oneself and one’s confidence on the promises and mercy which Christ has given to sinners, and on the Christ who gave those promises…repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Savior as king in self’s place.”[27]

  • The demand is for faith as well as repentance.
  • The demand is for repentance as well as faith.

“In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything.”[28]

“They [the Disciples] did not need to be told to do this; they did it naturally and spontaneously, just as one would naturally and spontaneously share with one’s family and friends any other piece of news that vitally affected them…it was a great privilege to evangelize.”[29]

“personal evangelism needs normally to be founded on friendship. You are not normally justified in choosing the subject of conversation with another till you have already begun to give yourself to him in friendship and established a relationship with him in which he feels that you respect him, and are interested in him, and are treating him as a human being, and not just some kind of ‘case’.”[30]

“The seemingly inevitable glamorizing of Christian experience in the testimonies is pastorally irresponsible, and gives a falsely romanticized impression of what being a Christian is like. This together with the tendency to indulge in long drawn-out wheedling for decisions and the deliberate use of luscious music to stir sentiment, tends to produce ‘conversions’ which are simply psychological and emotional upheavals, and not the fruit of spiritual conviction and renewal at all,”[31]

“There is only one means of evangelism: namely, the gospel of Christ explained and applied…There is only one agent of evangelism: namely the Lord Jesus Christ…There is only one method of evangelism: namely, the faithful explanation and application of the gospel message.”[32]

Questions to assess ones gospel preaching:

  • “Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to impress on people that the gospel is a word from God?”…
  • Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to promote, or impede, the work of the word in men’s minds?…
  • Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to convey to people the doctrine of the gospel, not just part of it, but the whole of it?…
  • Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to convey to people the application of the gospel, not just part of it, but the whole of it?…
  • Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to convey gospel truth in a manner that is appropriately serious?…”[33]

“Older theology distinguishes the two as God’s will of precept and His will of purpose, the former being His published declaration of what man ought to do, the latter His (largely secret) decision as to what He Himself will do. The former tells man what he should be; the latter settles what he will be. Both aspects of God are facts, though how they are related in the mind of God is inscrutable to us.”[34]

“The sovereignty of God in grace does not affect anything that we have said about the nature and duty of evangelism.”

  • It does not affect the necessity of evangelism.
  • It does not affect the urgency of evangelism.
  • It does not affect the genuineness of gospel invitations.

“It is true that God has from all eternity chosen whom He will save. It is true that Christ came specifically to save those whom the Father has given Him. But it is also true that Christ offers Himself freely to all men as their Savior, and guarantees to bring to glory everyone who trusts in Him as such.”[35]

  • It does not affect the responsibility of the sinner for his reaction to the gospel.[36]

“The sovereignty of God in grace gives us our only hope of success in evangelism. It should make us bold.”

  • It should make us patient.
  • It should make us prayerful.[37]

Continue reading “50 Quotes from J.I. Packer’s “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God””

Learning to Pray with Tim Keller, Graeme Goldsworthy, and Paul Miller

KellerTim Keller just released his newest book titled Prayer. I’ve read a few excerpts and reviews online, and think Keller’s book will be genuinely helpful.

I’ve read several other books on prayer for personal enrichment and pastoral ministry, and so far two books have stood out as the most insightful and nourishing.

  • Prayer and The Knowledge of God by Graeme Goldsworthy: Goldsworthy examines prayer through a biblical-theological approach and grounds all of his discussion in particular texts of Scripture. One of the most insightful aspects of this book is how Goldsworthy maps out the progress of prayer from Genesis to Revelation. Like always, Goldsworthy maintains a pastoral tone while writing with a scholars pen.
  • A Praying Life by Paul MIller: Miller’s book is refreshing for several reasons. First, each chapter is written in a devotional tone that is grounded in deep theological reflection. Miller also get’s to the heart of prayer, and gets to the heart of the issues that distract us from prayer.

What intrigued me about Keller’s book was his endorsement of “radically biblical mysticism”, what John Owen and Jonathan Edwards – or what John Murray called an “intelligent mysticism.” Here is what Keller said in an interview with my friend Matt Smethurst at The Gospel Coalition.

Biblical meditation means, first, to think out your theology. (That means having it clearly in your mind. Know what you believe.) Second, it means to work in your theology. (That means self-communion, talking to yourself. For example, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” It is asking yourself, “How would I be different if I took this theological truth seriously? How would it change my attitudes and actions if I really believed this from the bottom of my heart?”) Third, it means to pray up your theology. (That means turning your theology into prayer, letting it trigger adoration, confession, and supplication.) Do those things, and your theology will intersect with your experience.

I look forward to learning from Keller on this point. What about you? What books on prayer have been most helpful for your spiritual formation?

41 Quotes from Michael Green’s “Evangelism in the Early Church”

GreenIn seminary I was introduced to Michael Green as part of my reading in an independent study on evangelism with Dr. John Hammett at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Green is a British theologian, Anglican priest, Christian apologist and author of more than 50 books. Green’s last appointment was Senior Research Fellow and Head of Evangelism and Apologetics at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford in 1997. If you are unfamiliar with Green, here is an introduction to his classic book Evangelism in the Early Church.

“Probably no period in the history of the world was better suited to receive the infant Church that the first century A.D., when, under an Empire which was literally world wide, the scope for the spread and understanding of the faith was enormous.”[1]

“By the second century Christians were becoming more reflective and self-conscious about the background into which the Church was launched, and began to argue that it was a divine providence which had prepared the world for the advent of Christianity.”[2]

“Wherever they went, Christians were opposed as anti-social, atheistic and depraved. There message proclaimed a crucified criminal, and nothing could have been less calculated than that to win them converts.”[3]

“Worse still, this worship of crucified Messiah was distinctly blasphemous. The Old Testament made it perfectly clear that anyone hanged on a stake was resting under the curse of God.”[4]

“In the first place, Christianity was new and almost by definition nothing new could be true.”[5]

“Christianity was ridiculous; for it proclaimed that the wisdom of God was exhibited in the cross of Jesus.”[6]

“The resurrection came to them as God’s vindication of the claims Jesus had made. They saw that he was “designated Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead”. And they continued to announce these joyful tidings with tireless zeal and boundless enthusiasm.”[7]

“The one who came preaching the good news (Jesus) had become the content of the good news (Jesus).”[8]

“The good news is only effective among those who repent, believe, and are prepared to engage in costly, self-sacrificial discipleship.”[9]

The Gospel has “clearly defined”[10] content.

The Gospel is “equated with Jesus. Once again the cross and the resurrection are central.”[11]

Now “repentance and faith are the essential human conditions.”[12]

“Evangelism is never proclamation in a vacuum; but always to people, and the message must be given in terms that make sense to them.”[13]

Paul employed the analogy of adoption {in evangelism], “this practice was common in Roman society.”[14]

The role of the apologist is to “minimize the gap between himself and his potential converts.”[15]

“They made the grace of God credible by a society of love and mutual care which astonished the pagans and was recognized as something entirely new. It lent persuasiveness to their claim that the New Age had dawned in Christ.”[16]

The intellectuals, too, made their way slowly into the Christian movement. They were…dominated by a concern for truth, and Christianity offered them One whom they believed was final truth in personal categories.”[17]

Christianity is “wisdom teaching.”[18]

“But what about the ordinary man- supposing, for a moment, that such an abstraction existed: what attracted him to Christianity? Undoubtedly the love of Christians had a lot to do with it, so did the moral qualities they displayed, the warmth of their fellowship, their manifest enthusiasm, the universal applicability of their message. Reconciliation with God had a lot to do with it.”[19]

“this added a new dimension to living here and now, without waiting for whatever might befall after death. The assurance and confidence of the Christians, who were quite willing to lose home comfort, friends, and even life in propagating their cause won its share of converts; so did fear of judgment…But perhaps the greatest single factor which appealed to the man in the street was deliverance, deliverance from demons, from fate, from magic.”[20]

“The very fact that we are so imperfectly aware of how evangelism was carried out and by whom, should make us sensitive to the possibility that the little man, the unknown ordinary man, the man who left no literary remains was the prime agent in mission.”

“the great mission of Christianity was in reality accomplished by means of informal missionaries.”[21]

“The very disciples themselves were, significantly, laymen, devoid of formal theological training. Christianity was from its inception a lay movement, and so it continued for a remarkably long time.”[22]

“But as early as Acts 8 we find that it is not the apostles but the ‘amateur’ missionaries, the men evicted from Jerusalem as a result of the persecution which followed Stephen’s martyrdom, who took the gospel with them wherever they went.  It was they who traveled along the coastal plain to Phoenicia, over the sea to Cyprus, or struck up north to Antioch. They were evangelists, just as much as any apostle was.  Indeed it was they who took the two revolutionary steps of preaching to Greek who had no connection with Judaism, and then with launching the Gentile mission from Antioch. It was an unselfconscious effort. They were scattered from their base in Jerusalem and they went everywhere spreading the good news which had brought joy, release and a new life to themselves.”[23]

“This must often have been not formal preaching, but informal chattering to friends and chance acquaintances, in homes and wine shops, on walks, and around market stalls. They went everywhere gossiping the gospel; they did it naturally, enthusiastically, and with the conviction of those who are not paid to say that sort of thing. Consequently, they were taken seriously, and the movement spread, notably among the lower classes.”[24]

“There was no distinction in the early church between full time ministers and laymen in this responsibility to spread the gospel by every means possible, there was equally no distinction between the sexes in the matter. It was axiomatic that every Christian was called to be a witness to Christ, not only by life but lip.”[25]

The “connection between belief and behavior runs right through Christian literature. The two cannot be separated without disastrous results, among them the end of effective evangelism.”[26]

“The fellowship which the church offered, transcending barriers of race, sex, class and education, was an enormous attraction.”[27] In fact, “the church cared so much about fellowship that the Jews and Gentiles converted to the faith broke down centuries-old barriers and ate at the same table.”[28]

“Christianity is enshrined in the life: but it is proclaimed by the lips. If there is a failure in either respect the gospel cannot be communicated.”[29]

“When we think of evangelistic methods today, preaching in a church building or perhaps a great area readily comes to mind. We must, of course, rid ourselves of all such preconceptions when thinking of evangelism by the early Christians.  They knew nothing of set addresses following certain homiletical patterns within the four walls of a church.  Indeed, for more than 150 years they possessed no church buildings, and there was the greatest variety in the type and content of Christian evangelistic preaching.”[30]

Speak to “inflame the heart of the hearer, drag him away from his sin, and convert him to repentance.”[31]

“In early Christianity there was no such distinction between the work of the evangelist and the teacher…both evangelized through teaching the Christian faith.”[32] “The preaching and teaching went together, and there was much practical work as well, the visiting of prisoners, the encouragement of those condemned to death for their faith, as well as working for a living and exercise of great abstinence in food, drink, sleep, money, and clothing.”[33]

Two points emerge in observing Paul’s interactions in Acts, “the intellectual content of his addresses must have been very stimulating. Here was a man who could hold his own, and presumably make converts, in the course of public debate, dialegomenos.”[34]

Now, it is important to mention that “Paul or anyone else in the early Christian mission through that argument alone could bring anyone into the kingdom of God. But they know it could break down the barriers which obstructed men’s vision of the moral and existential choice which faced them, of whether to respond to Christ or not.”[35]

“One of the most important methods of spreading the gospel in antiquity was by the use of homes. It had positive advantages: the comparatively small numbers involved made real interchange of views and informed discussion among the participants possible; there was no artificial isolation of a preacher from his hearers; there was no temptation for either the speaker or the heckler to “play the gallery” as there was in a public place or open-air meeting.”[36]

“with the Scriptures and prayer as their main weapons, backed up by their love, their burning zeal to share their faith with others, and the sheer quality of their living and dying that the early Christians set out to evangelize the world.”[37]

“The Christian Gospel was intended for all men everywhere. The early Christians had no hesitations on that point: it was the agreed starting point for mission. The very nature of God demands a universal mission: if there is but one God, whose will for all men is that they should be saved, then the preaching would be worldwide.”[38]

“It would be a gross mistake to suppose that the apostles sat down and worked out a plan of campaign: the spread of Christianity was, as we have seen, largely accomplished by informal missionaries, and must have been to a large extent haphazard and spontaneous.”[39]

“Evangelism was the prerogative and duty of every church member. We have seen apostles and wandering prophets, nobles and paupers, intellectuals and fishermen all taking part enthusiastically in this primary task committed by Christ to his Church. The ordinary people of the Church saw it as their job: Christianity was supremely a lay movement, spread by informal missionaries. The clergy of the church saw it as their responsibility…the spontaneous outreach of the total Christian community gave immense impetus to the movement from the very outset.”[40]

“Unless there is a transformation of contemporary church life so that once again the task of evangelism is something which is seen as incumbent on every baptized Christian, and is backed up by a quality of living which outshines the best that unbelief can muster, we are unlikely to make much headway through techniques of evangelism.”[41]

Continue reading “41 Quotes from Michael Green’s “Evangelism in the Early Church””

Free Resources for Church Planters

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Currently, a significant trend in the U.S. and around the world is a renewed emphasis on starting new churches. More than 4,000 new churches are launched in the U.S. each year alone, each one representing the potential to reach new people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, new churches commonly struggle with limited resources, a lack of trained volunteers and few tools to support their work. Even more, these limitations can often be the most detrimental to churches in their very first years.

But LifeWay is committed to help.

For churches in their first two years of operation, LifeWay has a variety of free offerings to help get a few of the foundational aspects of ministry in place. This includes helps for:

  • Bible Study Groups (6 months of digital curriculum for all age groups)
  • Church Website: twenty:28 (Free website design and 1 year of hosting)
  • Leadership Development (1 year access to Ministry Grid, LifeWay’s new web-based training platform)
  • Plus, $500 in free printed LifeWay resources of the church’s choosing

To qualify to receive the free offers above, simply complete the form on this page. Churches who qualify will receive a response from a LifeWay representative with instructions on how to redeem.